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WELLESLEY COLLEGE LIBRARY 

PRESENTED BY 

Ella Smith Elbert «88 

in memo ri am 
Katnarine E. Coman 




S. 6. & E. L. ELBERT 



ENTERED ACCORDING TO ACT OF CONGRESS, 
In the Yeae 1872, 
BY ANGELINA G. WELD, 
In the office of the Librarian of Congress. 



THE 



"W O E/ K S 

OF 



FREDERICK GRIMKE. 



IN TWO VOLUMES. 

VOLUME I. 



COLUMBUS: 
COLUMBUS PRINTING COMPANY. 
1871. 



\ 



/ 



PUBLISHER'S PREFACE. 



10 



Frederick Grimke, the author of these works, was born in 
Charleston, South Carolina, September 1, 1791. His father, John 
Faucherand Grimke, was an eminent judge of the highest Court of 
that State. His brother, Thomas S. Grimke, is well remembered 
as an orator and man of letters ; and yet more for the boldness and 
ability with which he advocated reforms, as he considered them, in 
the education of youth. 

Frederick Grimke, after graduating at Yale, and studying law 
in Carolina, removed to Columbus, Ohio, in 1818, and commenced 
the practice of his profession. His ability and learning soon be- 
came conspicuous, and led to his appointment as a judge of the 
Court of Common Pleas. At the close of his official term, he re- 
moved to Chillicothe, Ohio, where he continued to reside until his 
death, March 7, 1862. 

After serving another term as a Common Pleas judge, he was, in 
1836, promoted to the bench of the Supreme Court, and continued 
to be a member of that Court until 1842, when he resigned, in 
order to devote his time, without interruption, to philosophical 
studies, and, especially, to the composition of his treatise on the 
"Nature and Tendency of Free Institutions." Two editions of 
that work appeared in his lifetime, and the third, with his latest 
revisions, is now given to the public. By his will, he directed his 
works to be published for distribution to certain libraries and col- 
leges in each of the States; and it is in pursuance of this direction 
that these volumes now appear. 



It is no part of the purpose of this notice to review these 
productions. Some of the author's views were, when publish- 
ed, unpopular, and are now yet more so ; but he was not a man 
to be deterred from expressing his honest convictions by a dread of 
censure. Modest even to diffidence, and never obtruding his opin- 
ions upon any one, he was nevertheless ready to express and de- 
fend them ; because he firmly believed them to be true, and con- 
sidered the defence of truth a paramount duty. Averse to the 
coarse strife of party, and never seeking office, he yet made 
the philosophy of politics the chief study of his life ; and, though 
eminent as a lawyer, a judge and a soholar, his title to intellectual 
distinction mainly rests on the powers of observation and thought 
displayed in the "Nature and Tendency of Free Institutions." 

To those who personally knew him, he had other titles to admi- 
ration. To them his memory is endeared by a recollection of his 
unassuming manners, his kindness of heart, and a purity of life 
unstained by a blot. 



* 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



OF 



FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



THIRD EDITION. 



1? 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



OF 

FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



BOOK I. 



INTRODUCTORY. 

The existence of free institutions presupposes the existence 
of a highly civilized society. An examination, therefore, of 
their genius and tendency will very naturally be preceded by 
an examination of the origin and nature of civilization. 

Civilization, then, is that state in which the higher part of 
our nature is made to predominate over the lower, and the 
qualities which fit men for society obtain an ascendancy over 
their selfish and anti-social propensities. But as much the 
greater part of the human race have always been found at one 
period in an uncivilized condition, the question what has in- 
duced a change from one state to the other is not one merely 
of curious inquiry, but of the highest philosophical interest. 

History presents us with the earliest traces of civilization in 
those regions where the densest population existed. This is a 
striking fact; and perhaps it may afford a clue to the solution 
of the difficulty. A population which is only tolerably full is 
inconsistent with the hunter state. One which is still more 
dense is inconsistent with the pastoral state. Any causes 
therefore which give a decided spring to the population are 
calculated to draw men from a savage into a civilized condi- 
tion. When they have multiplied up to a certain point, the 
1 



2 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



cultivation of the soil, which was before only occasional, and 
m particular spots, becomes, from the necessity of the case, 
general. It is sure, also, to be continued from choice, in con- 
sequence of the variety of desires it satisfies, and the command 
it gives over both the moral and physical world. 

But the difficulty still meets us, what in the first instance 
occasioned the increase of the population : for the hunter state 
will carry the population to a certain pitch, and the pastoral 
state will extend it still further. But, although we speak of a 
hunter and a pastoral state, these must not be considered as 
indicating what are the exclusive, but what are the predomi- 
nant occupations of the population. A tribe of shepherds, and 
even of hunters, is always addicted to some species of agricul- 
ture, as au agricultural people are always addicted to the 
raising of flocks. 

Civilization, then, would most probably commence in a re- 
gion which combined the advantages of a genial climate, and 
a fertile soil. These assist in giving a predilection for the 
cultivation of the soil, and in gradually superceding both the 
hunter and pastoral states. The multiplication of the popula- 
tion to a certain point, is the necessary condition of the progress 
of civilization, and how to obtain that condition is the precise 
inquiry we are engaged in. 

When the climate is favorable, and the land rich, men will 
be attracted to agriculture as naturally as to any other pur- 
suit. The relaxing influence of the climate will indispose to 
much activity, while the rudest cultivation, the mere scratching 
of the earth, will supply its fruits in tolerable abundance. 
But the diversity of productions among an agricultural people 
lays the foundation ior a more extensive barter than can exist 
in the hunter, or pastoral state. One neighborhood will ex- 
change its products with another; and by degrees a communi- 
cation will be opened between the more distant parts of the 
community. The rude elements of trade will be introduced, 
and ultimately a regular commerce will be commenced. Some 
parts of the country will be- more easily approached by water 
than by land. Sometimes the rivers, at others the coasts ad- 
jacent to the sea, will afford the easiest channels. When 
society has advanced so far, the population cease any longer 
to be impelled by mere instincts. The circle of their desires 



INTR0 . ] OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 3 

will be enlarged, and the range of observation and experience 
proportionally extended. The occupations of society then 
become more complex and more diversified. Men begin to 
reflect, to look more into the future, and to conform their 
actions to something like rule and system. Enterprise, though 
exceedingly limited, will be one feature of their character. 
The coasts of neighboring countries will be visited for traffic, 
as their own coasts had been explored before. And from that 
time we may date the rise of a regular commerce. 

Even before this period the inhabitants will be brought into 
such intimate communication that the social qualities will be 
distinctly developed, and those of an opposite character kept 
more in the back ground. In addition to the inanimate objects 
with which they will have to deal, their own minds will be- 
come the subject of observation. Each individual, in order to 
regulate his own actions, will be compelled to make observation 
of the actions of others : and the range of observation , widening 
with every increase of the population, the understandings of 
every one will be sharpened and improved, whether they will 
or no. Industry and enterprise will not be the only traits in the 
character of the population. There will be symptoms of intel- 
ligence visible everywhere. And this will give a fresh spring 
to activity in every department of life. 

The point of time when the minds of men begin to be the 
subject of observation, is the most important period in the his- 
tory of civilization. The foundation is then laid for reflection 
in its most extensive signification. And it is for this reason 
that I have laid so much stress on the cultivation of the soil, 
and the consequent increase of the population, as the last is 
the necessary condition of the growth of civilization. For 
then not only are the desires of men multiplied and the means 
of gratifying them augmented, but the beings whose minds 
act upon and stimulate each other are also multiplied. 

The notion of property in land is never fairly grasped, until 
agriculture has made considerable progress. Among a tribe 
of shepherds this notion is very indistinct — among one of 
hunters it is still more faint. It is only fully developed, when 
agriculture becomes the predominent pursuit 1 The foundation 
of the right is laid at the first dawn of civilization, but at that 
period it is not distinctly recognized, simply because the oecu- 



4 NATURE AND TENDENCY [book L 

pations of tbe inhabitants imply a use in common, and are 
incompatible with a division of the soil. When the land is 
cultivated each individual tills the spot on which the accident 
cf birth has placed him. The dominion over the land was 
once what the dominion over the ocean always is. The one 
was once in common — the other continues to be so. As there 
is no superior right of one individual over another to navigate 
the ocean, there was no superior right of one over another to 
cultivate the laud. And yet precisely because there is no 
superior right, each individual is at liberty to make use of 
both. But the traversing the ocean by one vessel in a par- 
ticular path is inconsistent with its being traversed by another 
vessel in exactly the same path at the same time. The use of 
a particular path on the ocean becomes for the time being, 
exclusive. But more than this momentary use is necessary in 
the case of the soil ; and precisely because, as in the former 
instance, there is no superior right of one over another to the 
use, and this demands occupation, and occupation protection ; 
the right of private property in the laud comes to be as legiti- 
mately established as the right to a private use of the oceau. 

As soon as the notion of property has sprung up, laws are 
necessary to enforce it. A system of legislation will be neces- 
sary, which, however rude and imperfect in the beginning, 
will give shape and consistency, to the social organization, and 
push onward the march of general improvement. 

But, although civilization will originate among a people 
who have a genial climate and a fertile soil, it may be trans- 
ported to other regions, and give rise to even a higher condition 
of society. For as it is not in consequence of any original 
difference in the faculties of men of different countries, at least 
where there is no difference of race, but only from a difference 
in the circumstances in which they are placed, that some civil- 
ize themselves, while others continue in their primitive state, 
there can be no obstacle to the introduction of the arts and 
refinement of the most cultivated people to every region where 
a foothold can be gained. This is a fine provision in the con- 
stitution of human nature. But for it there is no raason to 
believe that northern and central Europe would have merged 
from their barbarous condition. Britain, France and Germany, 
were inhabited by barbarians until Eoman civilization was in- 



INTRO. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



5 



troduced. These countries are now the seats of a civilization 
more complete and refined, than existed among the people who 
first conveyed thither the first rudiments of laws and manners. 
The conquest of the Eomans first, and the dissolution of the 
empire afterwards, produced a mixture of the people of all 
parts of the continent, and caused the laws and manners, the 
arts and sciences, of the people of Italy to penetrate into every 
quarter. No other, or further account need or can be given of 
the matter. But for Eoman civilization, London, Paris, Berlin, 
as well as St. Petersburgh, Copenhagen and Stockholm, would 
at the present day be villages of straggling huts. There is 
not the least reason to suppose, that those spots would be in- 
habited by a race so far advanced in the scale of civilization 
as the present population. 

No people, so far as our information extends, has been 
known to civilize itself. The civilization of ancient, as well as 
of modern Europe, was of foreign growth. Nevertheless, as 
civilization must have commenced somewhere, in order to be 
carried abroad, it is plain, that some one people, who were 
originally placed in singularly propitious circumstances, did 
oiiginally succeed in civilizing itself. The earliest records of 
history place the first civilization on the eastern coasts of the 
Mediterranean, whence it has spread all over Europe. 

The English, and Americans, are accustomed to talk of 
their Anglo-Saxon descent. This savors much of affectation, 
if it does not denote a defect of information. For if Roman 
civilization had not been planted in the island of Great Brit- 
ain, before the Saxon invasion, the English and their descend- 
ants would have been very little lifted above the condition of 
the Saxons who inhabited the shores between Holland and 
Denmark. There was no European people at that day more 
thoroughly barbarous. This is more particularly true of the 
Angles, the chief tribe of the Saxons, and from whom the 
island derives its name of Eugland. The lawless and pirati- 
cal life they led, was absolutely inconsistent with the manners 
and habits which are so carelessly attributed to them. There 
was no way of even beginning the work of civilization, but 
by breaking them up, as a tribe, and planting them among a 
people who had already made considerable advances. The 
English, and Americans, have no more reason to be proud of 



G 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book l 



their ADgo-Saxon descent, than the people of southern Eu- 
rope have to be proud of their Vandal or Gothic descent. In 
every instance where barbarous tribes have invaded countries 
in which Boinan civilization existed, they adopted, and grew 
into the institutions and customs of the more cultivated peo- 
ple, and built the fabric of society on that foundation. The 
mixture of the two people had precisely the same effect, only 
on a much larger scale, as the mixture, and intermarriage of 
the various classes in modern society. The stock of Patrician 
blood would run out, the upper ranks would become ener- 
vated, if they were not constantly recruited from the Plebian 
orders. Nothing is more common than to mistake a mere 
coincidence for an antecedence and consequence — that is, for 
cause and effect. Thus, although circumstances peculiar to 
Great Britain (its being an island for instance) have secured 
to the people a better social organization than in any other 
European country, its great advances have been ascribed to a 
cause purely accidental, merely because it is more open to 
common apprehension. There can be no doubt, if the Franks 
or Burguudians, instead of the Saxons, had invaded the coun- 
try, the march of civilization would have been the same. 

The difference between the people of New England and of 
the Southern States of America, has been supposed to arise 
from the fact that the former were decendants of the Saxons, 
the last of the Normans. This is another instance of con- 
founding a coincidence with cause and effect. The cavaliers 
(who we will suppose were decendants of the Normans) first 
planted Virginia, but the great bulk of the immigration after- 
wards were of the same class as that to New England. The 
difference between the two people is attributable solely to 
outward circumstances. The climate of the South was more 
soft, the land richer, the institution of slavery was better 
adapted to the country, and these are abundantly sufficient to 
account for the difference of manners (for that is the only dif- 
ference) between the two people. 

We should know absolutely nothing of the Saxons for three 
hundred years after the invasion, if it were not for Bede's 
history, and Bede himself was not born until A. D. 673. 
When there is so great a blank, and a blank only attempted 
to be filled up by the most superstitious of writers, it is easy 



INTRO. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



7 



to talk of Anglo-Saxon civilization without fear of contradic- 
tion. 

It is now two centuries and a quarter since the English 
people emigrated to North America. During that period, 
their descendants have peopled it in every direction, and have 
covered it with the triumphs of art and science, so that if by 
possibility the country should be subjugated, there is no rea- 
son to believe that the laws, manners and institutions would 
be extirpated. On the contrary, they would form the basis of 
any future superstructure which might be raised, even if the 
invaders were as completely barbarized as the Saxons of the 
fifth century. 

The Eomans were in possession of the island of Great Brit- 
ain for four centuries. We should make a great mistake if 
we supposed that it was only the Roman armies which occu- 
pied it. Eoman citizens, of every class and occupation, emi- 
grated there, as the English did to America. If we did not 
know this to be the fact, it would be a most improbable sup- 
position that Roman civilization did not exercise a decisive 
and permanent influence upon the whole frame of Saxon so- 
ciety. Cities were founded even in the sequestered districts 
of Wales, in which the municipal government of the mother 
country was established, and the wealth and luxury displayed 
by the inhabitants, was evidence of a total transformation of 
the original society. From A. D. 80 to the fifth century, 
architecture and all the arts flourished, and beautiful build- 
ings, after the Italian model, were erected in various parts of 
the island. Every Roman colony and free city was a mimic 
representation of the city of Rome, encompassed with walls, 
adorned with temples, palaces, aqueducts, and other build- 
ings, both for use and ornament; so that when the Emperor 
Coustantine rebuilt the city of Autun, in Gaul, in 296, he was 
chiefly furnished with workmen from Britain. Schools were 
established in various parts of the country, in which youth 
were taught the Latin language, and other departments of 
knowledge.* The Theodosian code abounds in edicts relating 
to these schools. Savigny, in his great work (Histoire du droit 

* Henry's History of Great Britain, vol. 2, pages 92, 120. Allowance 
must be made for the coloring of the historian, but the facts are substan- 
tially correct. 



8 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book i. 



Romain), shows that not less than thirty-three towns lying 
between Winchester and Inverness were endowed with regu- 
lar forms of municipal government; and the choice of the 
magistrates was intrusted to the citizens themselves. 

When the invasion of the Barbarians took place, the same 
consequences follow as in central and southern Europe. A 
loog period of anarchy ensued. Society was in a state of fer- 
mentation until the process of mixing and amalgamating the 
two races was complete; but there never was a time, even 
during the darkness of the seventh, tenth and eleventh centu- 
ries, when Roman civilization did not exert a predominant in- 
fluence throughout Britain, Gaul, Spain and Italy. The work 
of Savigne is devoted to establish the perpetuity of the Ro- 
man law, to show that there never was a period when it ceased 
to be the chief element in the jurisprudence of the European 
States.* 

The diffusion of the Latin language over the west of Eu- 
rope is an incontestible proof of the thorough root which Ro- 
man civilization had taken. It was the spoken language on 
the continent, in Gaul, Spain, Belgium, &c. Mr. Gibbon (v. 
1, p. 00) says that it was the spoken language in Britain also. 
Mr. Hallum (Mid. Ages, v. 4, p. 159) thinks otherwise, and 
that Latin was never spoken as generally as in Gaul and 
Spain ; and this is undoubtedly correct. But that it was the 
spoken language of the Roman and Roman-Anglo population, 
and that this population in the third aud fourth centuries, 

* When Julian (afterwards Emperor) commanded in Gaul, the scanty 
harvest of the year 359 was supplied from the plenty of the adjacent 
island. Six hundred large hoats made several voyages to the coast of 
Britain, and distributed their rich cargoes of wheat among the towns aud 
fortresses on the Rhine [Gibbon, ch. 19]. Julian himself (says Mr. Gib- 
bon) gives a very particular account of the transaction ; and if we com- 
pute the GOO ships at only seventy tons each, they were capable of export- 
ing 120,000 quarters; aud the country which could bear so large an ex- 
portation, must already have attained an improved state of agriculture. 
Same chapter, note 87. 

In chapter 2, Gibbon, remarking upon the condition of the island, long 
before the Saxon conquest, says: "The spirit of improvement had passed 
the Alps, and was felt even in the woods of Britain, which were gradually 
cleared to open a free space for convenient and elegant habitations. York 
was the seat of government ; Loudon was already enriched by commerce, 
and Bath was celebrated for the salutary effect of its medicinal waters.'" 



INTRO. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



9 



was very considerable, will admit of no doubt. The Gaelic 
was spoken by the Britons, as in the Welsh and German set- 
tlements of the United States, these people speak their own 
language, although the English is the prevailing language of 
the country. The Latin is the root of a great part of the 
English language. If the Saxon is the basis of the words 
used in common life, the Latin is the foundation of the intel- 
lectual part of the language, nor could it be otherwise. An 
uncivilized tribe cannot have the same range of ideas as a 
cultivated people ; and not having the ideas, it is impossible 
for them to invent the corresponding words. The same fond- 
ness for uttering novel propositions which makes the English 
boast of their Saxon descent, has led them to boast of the 
Saxon origin of their language. Epicures whose taste is 
palled by living on a healthy diet, acquire a relish for the 
most repulsive food ; and the most refined and cultivated 
minds, satiated with the perfection to which their language 
has been brought by the transfusion of the Latin, take delight 
in descanting on the homely terms of Saxon origin. It car- 
ries them back to what they are pleased to consider an arca- 
dian age, but which only exists in their own imaginations. 
Roman civilization, the traces of which, however obscured by 
time, are stamped upon every feature of the existing society, 
has given them a vantage ground to stand upon, and enable 
them to talk of the wonders which Saxon institutions achieved. 
If the question as to the structure of the English language 
involved a mere critical inquiry, it would be unimportant ; but 
it necessarily assumes a character of profound philosophical 
interest, as it is connected with the whole problem of European 
civilization, and with the still deeper problem, what nation, if 
any, that has risen up in the world, has ever been known to 
civilize itself ? 

It is supposed that the bulk oi the Eoman population was 
expelled from the Island after the invasion of A.D. 406. That 
the Eoman legion had been removed some time before, in 
order to protect the empire in another quarter, is certain. It 
is highly probable, also, that numbers of Eoman citizens 
among the employes and civil officers of the government also 
withdrew ; but that ths entire Eoman population and the 
population of mixed blood, which had been growing up dur- 



10 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book i. 



ing a much longer period than has elapsed since the settlement 
of the United States, also withdrew, is absolutely incredible. 
For what was the Eoman population at the commencement of 
the fifth century? It was composed of persons who were 
Britons by birth, although descended from Roman ancestors ; 
and this population which had been growing up for twenty 
generations, had become fastened to the soil, by habit and 
interest as well as by early associations. If a thousand years 
hence, there shall be no authentic history of the dismember- 
ment of Spain from her American colonies, no one would 
place any confidence in the random conjectures that the 
Creoles had in a body abandoned Mexico, Peru and Chili. 
The belief would be, as is the fact, that they nearly all re- 
mained in the country of their birth. 

The Saxon conquest was not the work of a day. It pro- 
ceeded more slowly than conquests usually do. The armies 
which entered the country at considerable intervals, were too 
small to exterminate the inhabitants, even if they had desired 
to do so, although in the end they were sufficient to overcome 
the military force which they encountered. Xor could there 
be any motives to induce the Roman British population to 
retire, when all other parts of the empire were suffering from 
the overwhelming inroads of still more formidable barbarians. 

Historians speak of the expulsion of the Moors from Spain. 
With as much reason might a historian living three centuries 
hence speak of the entire emigration from Ireland to America 
of the Gaelic race. The Moorish kingdoms of Spain were 
very gradually destroyed ; the last, that of Grenada, not until 
the close of the fifteenth century. But the Moors had been 
settled in Spain nearly eight centuries ; and even if we pos- 
sessed no positive information to contradict the general notion 
which is afloat, the fact that the national character to this 
day is strongly tinged with Moorish features, would be suffi- 
cient to prove that Mahommedan institutions had exerted a 
decisive influence upon Spanish society. Xo country, we may 
be well assured, has ever been emptied of its inhabitants to 
anything like the extent to which the careless and sweeping 
statements of some historians would seem to imply. The 
rich may remove, but the bulk of the population must stay 
behind. 



INTRO. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



11 



With a much more formidable force than the Saxons con- 
veyed to Britain, William the Conqueror was unable to extir- 
pate the Saxon population. As soon as an invading army has 
succeeded in overawing the people, it has no interest in push- 
ing its conquest farther. On the contrary, it is greatly to its 
advantage that they should remain. The Huguenots, not- 
withstanding the revocation of the edict of Nantz, always 
composed a numerous and compact body in France; and yet 
total expulsion was more practicable in that instance than in 
any other. 

The history of Great Britain, for more than three centuries 
after the Saxon invasion, I have already remarked, is almost 
a blank. But we know that when this piratical horde planted 
itself in the island, they found regular government established, 
and all the arts of civilized life in considerable progress; and 
there is no way of accounting for even the slow advances 
which they made in civilization, but by supposing that a large 
proportion of the civilized people, and not merely the works 
of art, were permitted to remain. Knowledge is power, even 
in the hands of the subjugated ; and the compiler of the Saxon 
code was as ambitious as the compilers of the Burgundian 
and Visigoth codes, of copying after Boman institutions. 

There can be no doubt that the mixture of different peoples 
of the same race has contributed to the progress of European 
civilization, and has caused English society to attain its 
present high state of perfection. But I see no reason why it 
should not have made these advances, if the island had been 
invaded by any other German tribe. After making allowance 
for the powerful influence of Christianity, the civilization of 
modern Europe is chiefly ascribable to the fact that Boman 
civilization was engrafted on a northern stock. It was indif- 
ferent whether this stock should be a Saxon one or not. If 
the Franks had possessed themselves of Britain, and the 
Saxons of Gaul, the structure of society in the two countries 
would have been the same as it is now. Two things were 
necessary, that the barbarous tribes should be placed in con- 
tact with a civilized people, that they should live among 
them, and learn from them, otherwise there would have been 
no beginning for the new race; and secondly, that Boman 
civilization should be so modified as to adapt itself to this 



12 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book i. 



mixed people. The sufferings, the distress, and anguish of 
mind which the people endured, threatened for a time to dis- 
organize all European society. But these causes were never 
sufficient to tear up by the roots Boinan civilization. On the 
contrary, the multiplied adversities to which men in all the 
relations of life were exposed, developed reflection and indi- 
vidual energy, and constituted a training and discipline for 
the new society, which rose up from the ruins of the old. In 
the seventh and eighth centuries, learning had made greater 
progress in England than anywhere else. On the Continent, 
profane literature had entirely disappeared. In England the 
schools were flourishing, and Greek and Roman literature 
were Sought after with unusual ardor, as the history of Alcuiu, 
the intellectual representative of the eighth century, com- 
pletely attests. 

Do physical causes exercise an important influence upon the 
human character 1 This has been a much debated question. 
But it is not difficult of solution. That difference of race 
produces a difference of character among nations, can admit 
of no doubt. But difference of race proceeds from an original 
difference of structure, or organization, and is entitled to in- 
finitely more attention than food, air, and climate. The dif- 
ference between the Chinese and the people of Europe is so 
marked, that it is impossible to mistake it. The Chinese 
attained to their present state of civilization when the people 
of Great Britain, France and Germany were in a savage con- 
dition. Education is universally diffused in China, and men 
of letters have a distinction which they possess in no other 
part of the world. But their education is confiued within the 
narrowest limits imaginable, and their literature is mawkish 
and trifling in the extreme, without depth, or originality. 
They are the most lettered, and the most ignorant among 
civilized people. The Tartar conquest operated no change in 
society; for the Tartars adopted the institutions and manners 
of the conquered people, as the Franks, Goths and Saxons 
adopted those which they found planted in Gaul, Spain and 
Britain. 

In Africa, civilization never even begun to dawn, except on 
the Mediterranean coast, which was peopled by a race totally 
different from the Ethiopian. The brain is the organ of the 



INTRO. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



13 



mind, and any sensible difference in its structure must exer- 
cise a corresponding influence upon the character. There is a 
great difference in this respect, between individuals of one 
and the same nation. If we were to single out all the weakest 
minded persons in Europe and America, and plant them 
somewhere as a nation, they would probably be little inferior 
to the Chinese or Hindoos. We coulcfnot well compare them 
with the Ethiopians, because they would at least have the 
gloss of civilization, while the last are still addicted to the 
most savage habits. But it is still a problem whether this 
physical cause proceeding from race, and the origiual struc- 
ture of the brain, may not be countervailed by moral causes. 
The physical organization undergoes great changes in a highly 
civilized society. The moral causes which then exert an in- 
fluence act upon the mind ; and yet they act less directly than 
where the discipline is of a purely mental character. If we 
could transfer half a million of Chinese or Hindoos to Great 
Britain or the United States, place them socially, as well as 
politically, on the same footing with the people of those coun- 
tries, but prevent intermarriages, except with the people of 
their own race, we might be able, after the lapse of a great 
many generations, to determine whether the structure of the 
brain, and not merely the external manners, is capable of 
alteration and improvement. No experiment of this kind has 
ever been made, nor probably ever will. It will then be for- 
ever a x)roblem. For, although as I have remarked, moral 
causes would seem to be better fitted to act upon that part of 
our structure which is immediately connected with the mind, 
than upon that which is only so remotely; yet it must be 
remembered that the mind, and consequently its physical 
organ, have a power of resistance, as well as a principle of 
ductility, and this power might be absolutely fatal to any fun- 
damental change in the intellectual faculties. 

The consideration of physical causes has been generally 
confined to the influence of food, climate, and air. Climate, 
undoubtedly, exerts a powerful influence upon the character. 
The inhabitants of the frozen and torrid zones are distinguished 
from each other by the most decisive traits; nor could any 
human device bring about a resemblance between them. In 
the first, the extreme rigor of the climate causes the whole of 



14 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book t 



life to be spent in efforts to battle against the elements. The 
beings who are condemned to this dreary abode, are occupied 
with no other care, than that of sustaining animal life. Their 
faculties are dwarfed and mutilated, and their feelings are 
benumbed by the terrible agents which act perpetually upon 
them. In the torrid zone the character is powerfully affected, 
but not in the same way, nor to the same extent. The extreme 
heat of the climate produces a lassitude, which is unfavorable 
to any vigorous or sustained exertion. In the first case the 
mind suffers from being overtasked in ministering to the bodily 
wants. In the second, it suffers through defect of capacity for 
exertion. But the inhabitants of the torrid zone are capable 
of rising much higher, both intellectually and morally, than 
the inhabitants of the frozen. The climate does not act upon 
them with such unmitigated severity, as upon the inhabitants 
of the extreme north. Instead of a scanty subsistence, they 
have an abundance of food. Their numbers consequently in- 
crease greatly, society is fairly established among them, and 
the intercourse which takes place makes great amends for the 
want of other motives to mental exertion. 

In the temperate zone the differences of climate are not such 
as to prevent all the people who inhabit it from attaining a 
very high, though perhaps not an uniform civilization. Where 
physical causes are not absolutely overbearing in their opera- 
tion, as in the polar regions, and near the equator, they are 
capable of being overpowered by moral causes, and bringing 
all the people subjected to them to a near resemblance to each 
other. The difference between the people of southern and 
central Europe is not so great that it might not be overcome 
by the operation of the same moral causes, acting upon both. 
The difference between the Italians and the English is not so 
great as between the Italians and the people of ancient Rome. 
In the United States the difference between the people of the 
North and South is not so great as it is between the people of 
France, who inhabit different provinces in the same latitude. 

The influence which moral causes exert will be best appre- 
ciated by singling out those classes in different countries, which 
are most completely subjected to them. If the intellectual 
men, in different parts of the temperate zone, have in the chief 
lineaments of character a strong resemblance to one another, 



INTRO. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



15 



it must be attributed to the influence which moral causes have 
in moulding the mind and disposition. The eminent men from 
the south of France in the Chamber of Deputies, do not differ 
materially from the eminent members of the British Parliament 
who are natives of Scotland. Guizot and Berryer are not more 
distinguishable from Brougham and Macauley, than they are 
from each other. There is greater difference of character be- 
tween Macintosh and Grattan, than between Burke and De 
Tocqueville. Education, absorbing occupation, pursuits which 
demand judgment and reflection, overcome the difference of 
climate, where this is not extreme, and assimilate men wonder- 
fully to each other. What is true in the higher walks of life 
is true in the lower; and if the institutions, both public and 
private, are the same, the different classes in both will nearly 
resemble each other. The French are no longer the fickle and 
vivacious people they were before the year 1780. They begin 
to feel that they have some stake in the hedge, some interest 
in public affairs, and this has produced a marked seriousness 
of character. Thus, if difference of climate, which is so well 
calculated to produce a difference of temperment, can make 
two nations appear to be of different races, a train of moral 
causes acting upon both may make them resemble each other. 
The eminent statesmen of England and the United States are 
very much the same sort of persons ; but there is a very great 
difference between all of them and Richelieu, or Mazarine, or 
Wolsey and Strafford. 

I have observed that the bringing men into close communi- 
cation with each other, and establishing some sort of society 
in the first instance, was probably the principal means of 
civilizing them. This influence is two-fold. It acts upon the 
manners, by imposing a restraint on the excessive indulgence 
of the selfish and anti-social propensities; it acts upon the 
mind, by presenting it with abundant materials for reflection. 
For the study, in one form or other, of the minds and character 
of others, makes up the greatest and the most valuable part 
of human knowledge. But free institutions lead to an asso- 
ciation of people of all classes. The civilization, therefore, is 
destined to be more thorough and uniform than in any other 
species of government. In most countries civilization, can 
hardly be said to be an attribute of all classes. The various 



16 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[hook I. 



orders are separated as widely as if they were inhabitants of 
different ages and countries. This condition of society could 
not exist in the United States, nor would it have existed in 
other countries if the civil and political institutions had origi- 
nally been so modeled as to bring people of all ranks into a 
free and constant intercourse. No nation has ever been known 
to civilize itself; and the only way of civilizing the uncivilized 
orders of the same country, is to bring them under the direct 
influence of those which are civilized. The thorough civiliza- 
tion of the people of the United States (when compared with 
that of other countries) is, more than any other circumstance, 
destined to render their institutions lasting, and thus to falsify 
the maxim of Montesquieu, that a nation, after it has attained 
a certain height, is compelled by some invincible law of its 
being, to decline. 

Although a southern temperament may make men fickle, 
passionate, and fond of pleasure, it also induces a contempla- 
tive turn of mind. This is a marked trait in the character of 
a southern people. Free institutions turn this quality to ac- 
count, and prevent the contemplative disposition from wasting 
itself, as among the oriental nations, in vague and unprofitable 
reveries. A vast field for active exertion is open; and this 
mixture of the practical and speculative, contributes to the 
formation of a very high order of mind. A most acute observer, 
De Tocqueville, has perhaps exaggerated when he declares 
that men of the Southern States of America, "are both more 
brilliant and more profound, than those of the North." We 
shall not err, however, if we say that they have both these 
qualities in as great perfection. 

In every country which has run a career of long, and unin- 
terrupted prosperity, there is a tendency to what may be termed 
excessive civilization. Extremes frequently meet, and exces- 
sive civilization carries men back to the indulgence of the same 
propensities which characterized them in savage life. The 
same vices, only under different forms, invade every rank, and 
the community would be in danger of universal dissolution, 
unless some terrible calamity occurred to give a rousing shake 
to society. But if there is a country, in which no wall of parti- 
tion exists between the higher and lower orders, this catas- 
trophe may be prevented, without breaking up the frame- work 



INTRO.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



17 



of society. The upper ranks will be constantly recruited from 
that part of the population, which being inured to industry, 
possesses greater simplicity of habits. The great disparity 
which exists in the condition of different classes, may seem 
unnatural; but it answers, among many other wise ends, this 
important purpose; it prevents luxury and effeminacy from 
taking complete possession of the ruling orders, and the whole 
community from running rapidly to decay. 

The influence which food and air exercise, is very small. In 
the frozen zone, the first acts powerfully, but it is only as con- 
nected with the climate. The meagre and scanty subsistence 
which the inhabitants obtain from the forests and rivers does 
there stunt the growth, both of body and mind. But in the 
temperate zone, the food although very different in different 
regions, is on that very account, better adapted to the various 
ph> sical organizations. The inhabitants of a southern climate 
have larger and more powerful muscles than those of a north- 
ern; which would sei in to show that a moderate diet is not 
unfavorable to the complete development of the animal struc- 
ture. Xo people in the temperate zone has been known to 
abstain from the use of stimulating drugs, such as tobacco, 
spirituous liquors, tea and coffee. If any such had ever been 
known, it would probably be found that the strength and 
health of both body and mind was greatly improved, and that 
the human frame attained a perfection which it had not any 
where else. But no experiment having ever been made, we are 
deprived of the only certain means of verifying the conjecture. 

The present has been termed the age of physical civilization ; 
and it is even supposed that literature and philosophy, have 
already begun to decline. This, like many other general pro- 
positions has at least the merit of containing something 
striking. Its fault consists in presenting an imperfect, and 
incomplete view of the matter. There never was a period, 
when men were so much addicted to those pursuits, which 
minister to the comforts and enjoyments of life. There never 
was one when these were so widely diffused. The display of 
human activity in this direction, having been so little former- 
ly, and so immense now, the intellectual exertion which is 
actually made, is thrown into the back ground, and to an in- 
attentive observer the unprecedented progress which one 
2 



18 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book l 



pursuit has made, seems to imply the decay of all others. 

I doubt whether there ever was a time of greater intellectual 
exertion in France, Great Britain, and Germany, than during 
the present century. There is a fault common to the great 
majority of minds, even those of a high order. They can see 
nothing excellent, nothing eminently fine in anything which 
belongs to their own time. It is not merely that the living 
envy the living, not the dead. It is because the best minds 
are slow in analyzing, and appreciating what has not been 
analyzed before their time. I have known very excellent 
minds, affect great admiration for what are sometimes termed 

II the wells undefiled of English literature," and yet a great part 
of the works so characterized, are heavy and dull in the ex- 
treme. A tinge of melancholy frequently pervades the finest 
minds in a civilized country. They are saddened by the 
present, not by the past ; and they endeavor to escape from 
every thiug around them, by studies which most effectually 
deaden and extinguish the sentiment of the present. This is 
a topic which is too large for me to dilate upon now. The 
reader must be satisfied with the few hints I have thrown out. 
These will exercise his mind more than if I were to explain 
the merits of the great number of brilliant, profound, and 
original writers, who have adorned the present ceutury. Phys- 
ical civilization lies at the foundation of all higher civilization. 
It constitutes the rudiments of moral, and intellectual culti- 
vation. An age distinguished for it, denotes two things ; first, 
that civilization is more thoroughly diffused than at any former 
period, and secondly, that preparation is making for the 
growth of a more various, profound, and original literature, 
than before existed. 

The general taste for physical civilization at the present day, 
is an indication of a very important revolution in the structure 
of society. If we confine our views to its influence upon the 
social, and political organization, we cannot place too high an 
estimate upon it. Whatever contributes to raise the general 
standard of comfort, contributes to the development of the 
popular mind, and creates an improved taste and capacity for 
free institutions. And accordingly, the two countries, (Great 
Britain and the United States,) in which physical civilization 
has attained the greatest perfection, are the two in which civil 



INTRO. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



10 



and political freedom have made the greatest progress. Free 
institutions are endowed with a faculty of self-preservation, 
which is possessed by no other form of government. The 
reason of this is, that physical civilization diffuses property, 
knowledge, and power; and by so doing, conduces to the equal 
distribution of the physical, and moral strength of the com- 
munity. 

So far from believing that physical civilization is inconsist- 
ent with intellectual cultivation, I am convinced that the more 
the former is spread, the higher is the point to which the last 
will be carried. We must, at any rate, admit that physical 
civilization has something to do with the formation of the in- 
tellectual men who have adorned society. We cannot conceive 
of such minds as Locke, and Burke, Montesquieu and Cuvier, 
growing up in a society where they at least were not 'sur- 
rounded with the comforts of life. Health is a corporeal 
advantage; yet some degree of it is indispensable to the 
prosecution of any intellectual enterprise. And as a wise man 
will not wantonly neglect his health, he will not willingly 
forego any other outward advantage which conspires to the same 
end. Physical civilization supplies the materials on which 
intellectual men act If we figure to ourselves two countries, 
one of which is covered with log huts, interspersed among 
palaces, the other filled with populous and well built cities, 
the truth of the remark will be obvious. In one the matter 
for reflection and study will be inexhaustible ; in the other it 
will be sterile and unprofitable. All speculations in philosophy 
and literature may be said to be experiments upon the human 
mind. But it is impossible to make such experiments where 
the race of mankind is lifted very little above the condition of 
the brutes. 

The more widely physical civilization is diffused, the greater 
will be the chance that superior minds will emerge from ob- 
scurity. When the progress of industry and the arts is so 
slow that a small proportion of the population is placed in easy 
circumstances, a great number of such minds may be said to 
perish annually, like seed sown upon a sandy soil. If on the 
other hand, the comforts of life are extended to the bulk of the 
population, the greater will be the number of the educated, 
not merely of the educated at schools and colleges, but of those 



20 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book l 



who have encountered the severe intellectual discipline which 
follows. The number of those who will be thinkers and actors 
of the age will be greatly increased. Physical civilization may 
postpone the period of intellectual cultivation ; but the longer 
it is postponed, the more certain it is of giving birth to the 
highest exertions in every department of philosophy and litera- 
ture. Even excessive civilization is not without some advan- 
tages. The mind becomes wearied with the eternal round of 
heartless enjoyment, and is thrust upon its own resources for 
occupation. The apparent dearth of intellectual effort in the 
United States is remarkable, I^ever in any country has there 
been so much intellect in activity ; in hardly any one has so. 
little distinction been attained in the higher walks of learning. 
The reasons are obvious : 1st, the wide-spread political insti- 
tutions, together with the learned professions absorb nearly 
all the talent of the country; 2d, this greatly retards the 
growth of intellectual men as a body. But until they become 
such, they feel as if they were placed in a false position to 
society, when in truth, it is society which is placed in a false 
position to them. When the minds devoted to speculation 
become numerous, the common sympathy, which will animate 
them will be a bond of unspeakable strength, and there will 
then, probably, be no country which will exceed the United 
States, in every department of philosophy, science and litera- 
ture. And there can be no well ordered commonwealth unless 
there is a full development of the intellectual as well as the 
active faculties. The first balances it and gives it a right 
direction, the second keeps it iu motion. All the mechanical 
contrivances for balancing government are falling from our 
hands, and can only be superseded by the engine of knowledge. 
Take away all the intellectual men who have figured in public 
life, and in the learned professions, together with the influence 
which they have exerted upon other parts of society, and the 
United States would be a desert. But as the population be- 
comes dense the demand for intellectual qualities will become 
more pressing, and cannot be satisfied by the amount which 
is expended in public life and the professions. And this 
demand is in due time answered. For in tbe natural course 
of things, political life and the professions become crowded to 
excess, and the various departments of knowledge begin to be 
filled up. 



CHAP. I.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



21 



CHAPTER I. 

GENERAL VIEWS AND DIFFICULTIES OF THE SCIENCE OF 
GOVERNMENT. 

Amidst the general progress which the human mind has 
made during the last two hundred years, there is one science 
which has remained nearly stationary; and that is the phi- 
losophy of government.* It is true that all our knowledge is 
deduced from facts; and, it is equally true, that it is not in 
our power to create any one of those facts. The principles 
which go to make up what we denominate a science, are noth- 
ing more than the philosophy of facts ; and until the facts are 
given, we cannot find the principles. But it is remarkable 
that during the period I have referred to, a wider range of 
facts has been laid open to human observation and scrutiny, 
than in any period of similar duration in the history of our 
race. For if we commence with the year 1612, in the midst of 
the great struggle between liberty and power in Great Britain, 
and come down to the present day, we shall find that nearly 
all the great revolutions in human affairs, which have sensibly 
affected the social organization, the structure of government, 
and the functions of rulers, are crowded into that compass. 
The inquiry, therefore, is not only the most natural in the 
world, but it forces itself irresistibly upon us, why, in the 
midst of so great and so general a movement of the human 



* The intelligent reader is no doubt familiar with the distinction be- 
tween art and science. The first is the result of our experience, however 
limited that may be. The second is the repository of those great prin- 
ciples which are deduced from all experience. The first therefore neces- 
sarily precedes the last. It contains the rule in the concrete, while the 
last contains it in the abstract, or in a philosophical form. In Quintilian's 
time, it was a question, whether oratory was a science, or an art. At the 
present day, I presume, no one will deny that government is both an art 
and a science. 



22 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



mind, the science of government has seemed to stand still. 
It can never be necessary to know all possibly existing facts ; 
otherwise no part of knowledge would ever be brought to 
completeness. 

Several causes may be assigned for the slow progess of the 
science. The first consists in its intrinsic difficulties. There 
is no branch of knowledge which to so great an extent de- 
mands the application of abstract truth to particular facts; 
none in which the facts are so diversified, and so difficult to 
reduce to general rules. The very circumstance, therefore, 
that the two last centuries have been so prolific of materials, 
that they have afforded such an immense accumulation of 
facts, creates an impediment. Without these we cannot pro- 
ceed a step, and yet with them the greatest powers of analysis 
are baffled in the endeavor to trace out those principles which 
shall everywhere be regarded as forming the great elements 
of the science. I can easily imagine that very many of the 
most thoughtful minds, both in Europe and America, have 
occupied a whole lifetime in surveying, with intense interest 
and an eagle eye, the changes which society and government 
have undergone in the last sixty or seventy years, and yet have 
recoiled from the attempt to reduce into a system such a vast 
mass of experience. 

The second reason which I would assign is, that government 
is the science not only of what is, and what ought to be, but 
in addition to these, of what may be made to be also. It thus 
unites in itself the difficulties of all other sciences, and con- 
ducts to inquiries more complicated than any one of them 
singly. We can create no new facts, but we may vary inde- 
finitely the combinations of those which are already known. 
If it is a painful effort, therefore, to apply abstract truths to 
particular facts, the difficulty is very much increased when we 
desire to make an entirely new disposition of those facts; 
when, for instance, we wish to alter existing institutions, and 
to give a new form to the whole, or to some part of the gov- 
ernment. 

Another impediment to the advancement of the science has 
arisen from the extreme backwardness which both writers and 
statesmen have constantly discovered in speaking out all that 
they know and believe. It is supposed that there are a great 



CHAP. I.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



23 



maDy secrets in government which will not bear to be divulged 
to the generality of mankind. W e have read of the secret and 
the open doctrine of the ancient philosophers. Some things 
they revealed to the multitude, while others were hidden from 
all but a select few. The same custom existed among some of 
the ancient fathers ;* although it has been endeavored to be 
explained and palliated by eminent ecclesiastical writers. But 
the practice was by no means confined to the ancients. It has 
existed from all time, and has prevailed extensively, though 
not avowedly, among the philosophers and politicians of mod- 
ern times. It is now beginning to fall into disrepute, since 
what are termed the multitude are increasing so fast in knowl- 
edge and information, that it is no longer an easy matter to 
keep any secrets, and since, on that very account, the disclo- 
sure can be productive of no detriment. For although the 
first effect, of finding out many things which were before hid- 
den, is to make us fear nothing, not even the most violent 
changes; yet the ultimate effect is to make us fear many 
things, and to show us precipices and hindrances at every step 
which we take. 

The last cause which I shall mention as retarding the pro- 
gress of the science is, that in many instances the minds which 
are particularly fitted to extend its bounds are withdrawn from 
speculation into the field of active life. Profound thought, 
the ability to take the philosophical view, which belongs to 
things the most common and familiar, joined to a keen insight 
into men's character and dispositions, are necessary to pene- 
trate into the principles of the science. But he who possesses 
these qualities is very apt to be won over to one or other of 
the great parties which share the mastery of the country. 
The field of speculation, the field of imagination, and the field 
of action, divide between themselves the empire of man's ex- 
ertions. No one has been able to compass one of these in a 
lifetime; while the sense of enjoyment which is derived from 
mixing in active life is so much greater than is afforded by ab- 
stract speculation, that few minds have sufficient fortitude to 



* " Some of the Fathers held that wholly without breach of duty, it is 
allowed to the teachers, and heads of the Christian church, to employ arti- 
fices, to intermingle truth with falsehood." Riboff. Programme of the 
Doctrine and Discipline of the Fathers. 



24 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book i. 



forego the first for the sake of the more brilliant and durable 
fame which attends the last. 

Writers on political philosophy have for the most part em- 
ployed themselves in studying what is termed the mechanism 
of government, rather than in unfolding the structure of so- 
ciety. This is often the cause of great infirmity in the most 
ingenious speculations; since without pursuing the last course, 
we can neither thoroughly decipher existing institutions, nor 
see our way clearly in binding together the general principles 
which are fairly deuucible from them. All governments are 
to a great degree dependent upon the manners, habits, and 
dispositions of the people among whom they subsist. This 
connection is closer and more striking where the institutions 
are democratic; and as the American constitutions are the 
only example of the thorough establishment of such institu- 
tions, iris no wonder the error, I have referred to, has pre- 
vailed so extensively in the old world. It is both our privi- 
lege and our misfortune, that our knowledge is so completely 
bounded by our experience : our privilege, because we are 
withheld from a multitude of visionary, and fruitless expe- 
dients to better our condition, and our misfortuue, because we 
are sometimes inclosed in such a narrow circle of experience, 
as to remove us from the contemplation of a world of new facts 
which are transpiring beyond us. 

The reason then why it is of so much importance to examine 
and understand the structure of society, aud not merely the 
machinery of government, is because at the present day, more 
than at any former period, the political institutions are molded 
by the manners. It is true, every form of government may 
strictly be said to depend upon the constitution of society — 
upon the social organization in which it has taken root. But 
this dependence is of a totally different character in different 
countries. In some, the manners exert a positive influence; 
while in others, they have properly a negative influence only. 
In a commonwealth, where the standard of popular intelli- 
gence is high, and no impediment exists to the exercise of 
that popular authority which rightfully springs from such a 
state, the people may truly be said to create aud to uphold 
the government. On the contrary, where the population is 
sunk in ignorance aud apathy, government assumes the char- 



CHAP. I.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



25 



acter of a self-existing institution, for there is no power beyond 
to direct and control it. In one instance, the will of society 
impresses itself as an active power upon the institutions, both 
ordaining and controlling thern : in the other, for defect of will, 
the government is simply permitted to be what chance, or cir- 
cumstances, originally made it. The political institutions of 
Russia, and the United States, equally depend upon the social 
organization ; but in the former the influence is negative, in 
the latter it is direct and positive. In the former, the people, 
by their inaction, contribute to rear the fabric of despotism; 
in the last, they have created free institutions. It follows, 
that in proportion as the influence is of a positive character, 
will the institutions incline to the form of free government: 
for there may be every degree of this influence, stamping the 
greatest variety upon different schemes of government. Thus 
the English people are distinguished for the enjoyment of a 
greater degree of liberty than the French ; and the last have 
made such noble advances in the same career during the 
last twenty years, as to place their government entirely in ad- 
vance of the Spanish or Portuguese. Sometimes a positive 
influence is exerted upon one part of the government; one de- 
partment undergoes a fundamental change, while others re- 
main untouched. In other instances, no great alteration is 
made ; the theory of the government continues as before ; but 
such is the stringency and force of that invisible agent which 
we term public opinion, that the conduct and behavior of all 
public men, the tone and temper of the public administration, 
are materially improved. 

The legislature is that department which is apt to be first 
molded by the direct intervention of the popular will. It be- 
comes a representative body, long before it occurs to any one 
that it is possible to render the executive and judiciary elec- 
tive also. The legislature seems to touch more extensively, if 
not more immediately, upon the interests of society than any 
other department ; and it is the first, therefore, to which de- 
velopment is given. The judiciary would appear to have quite 
as intimate a connection with the business, the daily transac- 
tions of the people, as the legislature ; but as its functions are 
supposed to consist simply in making application of a set of 
ready made rules, and therefore to be inconsistent with the 



26 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book i. 



attainment of any substantive power, it does not engage pub- 
lic attention so early, nor attract so general an interest, as it 
is entitled to do. 

One great end which legislators in constructing government 
have proposed to accomplish, is so to adjust the parts of which 
it is composed, that they may act as checks upon one another. 
This scheme has given rise to the theory of checks and bal- 
ances. But hardly any one has adverted to a balance of a 
very different kind, without which the structure of the gov- 
ernment must forever be faulty, and its practical working in- 
consistent with its theory. I allude to that great balance 
which, in a society rightly constituted, is maintained between 
the government and the power out of- the government. It is 
owing to the great alterations which the social and political 
organization has undergone in very modern times, that this 
new fact in the history of political philosophy has escaped atten- 
tion ; at any rate, that a precise and definite place has not been 
assigned to it by those who have treated of government. The 
elevation of the lower orders, the formation of a great middle 
class, a thing but of yesterday, the creation of a genuine pub- 
lic opinion, have wrought changes in the composition of gov- 
ernment corresponding with those in the structure of society. 
Because the legislative, executive and judicial departments 
comprehend that share of authority which is organized, and 
which assumes a visible and determinate form, it has some- 
times been supposed that they contain the sum total of the 
political power of the community; but it is a matter for curious 
inquiry, to say the least, whether the outward force which 
sometimes resides in society, no matter whether we arbitrarily 
range it under the head ot liberties and franchises, has not 
risen to the rank of a substantive power; whether, in short, 
it has not become a new wheel in the machinery of the gov- 
ernment. Those departments do indeed exercise the adminis- 
trative authority of the state ; and if they were left to them- 
selves, and permitted to use power without a constant and ac- 
tive control on the part of the people, they would constitute 
the government, in the largest signification of the word. The 
extent to which that control exists is the single circumstance 
which at first determines the form of any particular govern- 
ment, and afterwards gives a direction to all its movements. 



CHAP. I.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



27 



If it is extremely feeble, the government will be a monarchy 
or oligarchy, in the most unrestricted sense ; if it is moderate 
in its operation, the mixed form of limited monarchy, or a tem- 
pered aristocracy, will grow up; and if very strong, it will 
give rise to free institutions, or a representative republic. If 
it could be conceived to be all powerful, it would not introduce 
the licentiousness of an unbridled democracy, but would rather 
supersede the necessity of all government. Wherever demo- 
cracy in its extreme form exists, the control of society at large 
is very small, instead of being very great; and therefore it is 
that such a government never has more than a temporary ex- 
istence; it soon degenerates into an absolute government. 

As the power I have spoken of as residing out of the gov- 
ernment, and in the society, represents for the most part a 
moral force, it may be supposed that I have assigned it too 
important a place in regarding it as a new wheel in the po- 
litical machinery. But they who undertake to expound the 
ordinary theory of checks and balances, do not rely so much 
on the physical force which is exercised by the departments 
of government separately, as upon a set of moral causes 
which are recognized as belonging to human nature, and 
which, as they are known to operate upon men as individuals, 
are with equal certainty expected to act upon them when 
they are made public rulers. And with the same propriety, 
in order to form a just notion of that species of balance I 
have referred to as existing between the government and the 
power out of the government, it is not necessary to consider 
the people as constantly invested with an armed force. The 
general tendency, at the present day, is to substitute moral 
power in the place of physical force ; not because it is more 
convenient, but because it is more efficacious. The profound 
tranquility which has been enjoyed by the American govern- 
ment—a tranquility so remarkable as to constitute a new fact 
in the history of society — will easily lead us to comprehend 
how a check exercised upon so large a scale may be of so 
great importance ; how it is that an invisible, but ever active 
power, which the term public opinion is of too narrow a 
meaning to give a competent idea of, may be sufficient to de- 
termine the form of the government, and after it is created, 
to superintend all its movements. The tendency of which I 



28 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book L 



bave spoken, may at some future day, be carried so far as to 
render it doubtful which is the government proper, the official 
agents who administer the public affairs, or the more complex 
machinery which presides over them, and retains each depart- 
ment in its proper sphere. 

Writers have divided governments into various classes. The 
most usual division is into monarchy, aristocracy and democ- 
racy. This classification has been adopted, not merely in con- 
sequence of the different manner in which those governments 
are put together; but proceeding upon a more comprehensive 
view, and considering each of them as founded in certain 
general and fundamental principles of human nature, those 
writers have treated the classification as a philosophical one of 
the highest importance. It is sometimes difficult to distin- 
guish between an historical fact and a philosophical truth. 
That governments have existed under every variety of form, 
is an undoubted fact; and that their existence maybe ac- 
counted for from well known causes, is equally certain. But 
what would be thought of the ethical philosopher, who ranged 
the virtues and vices under the same head, because they all 
have their root in certain principles of human nature I The 
error in both instances is precisely the same. There can be 
but one legitimate form of government, although there may 
be ever so many varieties, which force or accident has given 
birth to. 

If I ventured to make a classification, it would be into the 
natural and artificial forms, considering a representative re- 
public as the only example of the first, and every other spe- 
cies as coming under the second division. By arranging a 
truth in the same list with a number of errors, it loses the 
distinct importance which belongs to it, and ceases to be re- 
garded as a truth. The aim of the writer is necessarily im- 
perfect and unsatisfactory. Even admitting that it were ab- 
solutely impracticable to introduce free institutions into every 
country, that does not prevent their being considered as the 
only legitimate form of government, no more than the impos- 
sibility, if it exists, of engrafting the arts and refinement, 
which are found among the English and American people, 
upon the wandering tribes. of Africa or America, forbids as 
from treating civilization and savageism, not merely as differ- 



CHAP. I.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



29 



ent, but as two opposite states. The great end to be attained 
by holding up some principles and some institutions as just 
and true, and others as the reverse, is to quicken and animate 
both individuals and states in their efforts to abjure the for- 
mer, and to cultivate the last. The ancestors of the English 
and American people roamed like savages through the forests 
of Britain and Germany, and lived for centuries after under a 
stern and cruel despotism. The people whom Cresar and 
Tacitus describe as clad in skins, and sacrificing human vic- 
tims, seemed to have no fairer chance of being raised to the 
arts of civilization, which their descendants have attained, 
than the great majority of rude tribes now in existence. By 
regarding and habitually treating some actions and some in- 
stitutions as right, and others as wrong, we make a consider- 
able step towards rendering the former attainable, since it is 
of the very essence of right that it is something which can be 
reduced to practice. The distinction, then, is no longer be- 
tween the possible and the impossible, but between things 
practicable and things which are only difficult to be attained. 

Government, when not founded upon the will of the people, 
is necessarily an imperfect institution, because, failing in the 
commencement to represent their interests, it is almost sure 
eventually to be placed in direct opposition to them. Power, 
where it is condensed in a comparatively small class of the 
community, is obliged in self-defense to strengthen, in all 
possible ways, the influence and authority of that class; and, 
to the same extent, to detract from the importance of all other 
orders of men. It is not a reasonable answer to this to be 
told that abundant causes for the existence of such a mode of 
government maybe found in the actual constitution of society 
in some countries, since there is no form of vice, however 
gross and detestable, which may not be accounted for and 
justified in the same way. We recognize the correctness of 
the historical deduction, but reject the general principle which 
is sought to be derived from it. 

The political institutions of a country may be viewed as 
fulfilling two distinct ends : the one to administer all public 
business, the other to bind society together, in other words, to 
uphold civilization. But distinct as these two offices are, that 
constitution of government which is best fitted to promote 



30 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I 



the one, is also best calculated to advance the other. The 
wants and weakness of individuals give rise to the institution 
of government, and government, in turn, becomes the instru- 
ment of furthering the general improvement of society. The 
mere material interests which the public agents are appointed 
to superintend — the protection of property, the collection and 
disbursement of taxes, the guarding against foreign invasion 
— are not so absolutely connected with the moral and intellec- 
tual condition of the people but what we may suppose the 
former to be competently managed, without any remarkable 
improvement in the latter. But it is certain, that the right 
constitution of government, joined to an upright and enlight- 
ened administration of what we denominate public affairs, 
does contribute wonderfully to impart freedom, activity and 
intelligence to the general mind ; and it is still more true that 
the diffusion of intelligence, the spread of the arts and sci- 
ences, and the growth of a vigorous morality, do produce a 
marked influence upon the working of the political machine. 
The wider the basis on which government is made to stand — 
that is, the more thoroughly it represents the interests of all 
orders of men — the firmer the purpose and the more unremit- 
ting the efforts of individuals in improving their condition. 
The most effectual way then of raising the intellectual con- 
dition of the people, is to connect their interests so closely 
with their improvement that these may be mutually depend- 
ent on each other; to throw knowledge in the way of every 
one, that it may become of daily use and indispensable appli- 
cation in both public and private affairs ; so that men in the 
pursuit of their daily avocations, and government in the dis- 
charge of its official duties, may be compelled to run the 
same career of improvement. In this way the maintenance 
of civilization, and the more direct aim which the institu- 
tions of government contemplate, are both answered at the 
same time. 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



31 



CHAPTER II. 
POLITICS A SCIENCE. 

This is the title of one of Mr. Hume's essays. But the 
time had not arrived for the execution of the task he proposed 
to himself. The most highly gifted individual is as much 
dependent for the success of his speculations upon the period 
when he lives, as upon the force of his understanding. The 
reason why this is so, is that that period contains the sum of 
facts with which he is conversant. All the events which had 
before transpired, as well as those which are contemporary, 
are gathered together, at that period ; but all future events, 
as well as the future development of present events, are with- 
drawn from his view. All human speculations, in order to be 
just, must have a foundation in facts. The whole office of the 
human understanding, consists in a true, and thorough appre- 
ciation of these facts; and if these are not given, or are im- 
perfectly developed, our knowledge will be correspondingly 
imperfect. No one in the reign of Louis XIV., or even in the 
first half of the reign of Louis XV., could have predicted the 
events of the French revolution, although so near at hand : 
nor could any one in the reign of James L, much less of 
Elizabeth, have foreseen the English revolution in the time of 
Charles I. The process of thought is exceedingly gradual, 
and is never completed by one mind, but by a succession of 
minds. Bat it is not true, as is very commonly said, that the 
most elevated understandings never rise much above the level 
of thought in their day. The great employment of such 
minds, consists in the analysis, and generalization of facts. 
These are the distinguishing faculties of men ; and there is at 
every period, a sufficient accumulation of facts, to give exer- 
cise to those faculties. 

If politics is a science, it must be in consequence of both 
society, and government, being subjected to certain fixed laws. 
These will not vary ; but the condition of both society, and 



32 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



government may, when it will be incumbent on us, not to 
change the principles, but only the application of them. The 
laws of society have been confounded with the conditions 
under which they take place; and it is in consequence of this 
confusion, that the notion of law is regarded as inapplicable : 
society is looked upon as a jumble of elements, accidentally 
put together, and politics is denied to be a science. 

The first principle I shall notice, is that of progression. 
This is manifest in the individual ; the different periods of 
infancy, youth, and manhood, denoting a successive develop- 
ment of the faculties. But the individual, after attaining 
maturity, dies, while society, which is an aggregate of indi- 
viduals, continues to advance; and then reacting upon indi- 
viduals, elevates them in the same proportion. There can be 
no progress in the collective body, unless there is a capacity 
for progress in the individual. But although the capacity 
may exist, it is dependent for its development upon outward 
influences. This is the case, even with our secondary facul- 
ties, which would be null, without the presentation of external 
objects to rouse them into activity. Among collections of in- 
dividuals, small or large, we see this exemplified, by the influ- 
ence of conversation, and discussion. These contribute to 
sharpen, and invigorate the faculties, by rousing, and stimu- 
lating them, and by presenting new facts, and new views, 
which afford a wider field to expatiate in. As the population 
increases in density, the advantage will become greater and 
greater. The relations among individuals, among associations 
of individuals, private, civil, and political; the relations of all 
to society at large, of society to government, and government 
to society, create such a complication of interests, desires, and 
aspirations, that society- is by successive steps, transformed 
from the rudimental, into the highly civilized state. The in- 
dividual dies, but society does not. The individual, can avail 
himself, for a limited time only, of the mass of knowledge, and 
experience, which preceded him : society a thousand years alter, 
is assisted by all which has been accumulated in the interval: 
so that there is no proportion between the progress of the two ; 
since the last proceeds with a constantly accelerated speed. 

There is one remarkable fact however, never before noticed, 
with regard to the progress of the race. It is, that it is only 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



33 



after it has reached a certain point, that it gives any signs of 
even a capacity for progress. Italy, and Greece, were for many 
centuries, in a barbarous state; and all the civilized nations 
of modern Europe, remained an incalculable time, in an abso- 
lute, stationary state. The contact with Eoman civilization, 
in consequence of the constant emigration of great numbers 
of individuals from Italy, first gave a rousing shake to the 
population; and it is from that period only, that we must date 
the first steps towards advancement. This progress was after- 
wards interrupted by successive inroads of barbarians; and 
it was only after a long period of fermentation among the 
elements of society, that it commenced a regular march toward 
improvement. This remarkable phenomenon, of whole na- 
tions, remaining in an absolute, stationary state, for thousands 
of years, can only be accounted for, by supposing -that until 
the intellectual faculties proper, are roused into activity, there 
can be no progress beyond the sensual condition of the race. 
Animals are incapable of improvement and progress, because 
they do not possess the intellectual faculties; and the human 
race, are condemned to an immovable condition, until the in- 
tellectual faculties, which it does possess, are stimulated to 
exertion. The Asiatic nations present a still different case. 
They attained a certain degree of civilization, at a period 
when nearly all Europe was in a barbarous state ; and have 
been stationary ever since. This must in part, be attributed 
to an inferior mental organization. We see an extreme diver- 
sity in the intellectual faculties of individuals, in one and the 
same nation, however elevated the standard of improvement 
may be. The Persians however, although belonging to the 
Caucassian race, are nearly as backward, as the Chinese, and 
Japanese. But they have had as little intercourse with those 
nations which are most highly advanced, and among whom 
the intellectual faculties have been powerfully stimulated. 
Hence, the influence, wjiich the mingling of a highly civilized 
people with one less civilized, has in quickening the progress 
of the last. It operates, like the successive stages of society 
upon one and the same people. The decided progress which 
the Eussians have made since the opening of the present cen- 
tury, is attributable solely, to the predominance of the German 
element. 
3 



34 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book l 



The second principle I will notice, is the constant tendency 
of the social feelings, that is, those feelings which are com- 
mon to, and shared in by all, to prevail over those which 
are personal and selfish. The propensities are undoubtedly 
stronger in the individual, than the sentiments; but they are 
not sympathized with by other men, to anything like the same 
extent. However some men may delight in the indulgence of 
their sensual feelings, others having the same propensities, do 
not therefore sympathise with them; but the reverse. But 
all sympathise with the sentiments of honor, integrity, benev- 
olence, &c. This distinction is of great importance, and has 
never been noticed. It discloses the admirable provision 
which is made, for causing the higher parts of our nature to 
repress, and discipline the lower. If it were not for this con- 
stitution of man, — civilization, society, government would be 
impossible. Human affairs, would be delivered over to the 
wildest disorder and licentiousness. The immense force which 
is given to the social feelings, in consequence of their reflect- 
ing the feelings of all, acts as a perpetual check upon the 
propensities which are personal, or selfish ; and gives them 
undisputed authority among collections of individuals. And 
as this process is not the result of our will, but depends upon 
our structure, it is invariable in its operation. Thus is laid 
the foundation of a great law of society, which increases in 
strength as the population increases in density, and the inter- 
ests of society become more complicated and more difficult to 
manage. The process may be slow, but it is certain. It is 
discernable in the history of every European country. The 
intestine disorders which formerly existed in England, France, 
and Germany, were occasioned by the struggle between these 
two antagonistic forces, the selfish, and the social. The strug- 
gle has wonderfully abated in those countries, as well as in 
Prussia, Holland, Switzerland &c. It continues with great 
force in Italy, Spain, and Portugal. But the advantage is 
incalculable, when there is a tendency however slow, to the 
predominance of the higher over the lower part of our affec- 
tive nature. It is a great achievement, when society has been i 
reclaimed from the incessant discord, which once prevailed, 
and has emerged into a state of high civilization. This ten- 
dency of the collective feeling — if I may. use the expression — 



CHAP. II ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



35 



to gain the ascendancy, is constantly reinforced by the in- 
creased reflexion which takes place : public sentiment is rem 
dered stronger, by becoming more intellectual; the civil, as 
well as the political institutions, fall into a more orderly 
arrangement; and the fabric of government is constructed 
with more skill, foresight and circumspection. 

Hence the third principle, that the character of all political 
institutions depends upon the structure of society. For what 
is termed government, is only a development of the elements 
which are found in society. The two make up one whole ; the 
one being the foundation, the other the superstructure, which 
springs from it. Leaves and blossoms, as well as the stalk, 
make up the idea of a plant. Without the former, it is a 
dead, not a living body; and without civil government, any 
large association of men would be au imperfectly formed 
society. Government, and society are commonly conceived of 
as two distinct and independent institutions, in consequence 
of the great difference observable in the forms of government 
of different countries, and in consequence of the supposed 
ability of the lawgiver to alter and modify them at pleasure. 
All the modifications which are ever made in the frame work 
of government, are guided by determinate laws ; and the great 
diversity of governments in different countries, is ascribable 
to a corresponding difference in the structure of society. It 
is very common to witness political changes — that is, changes 
in the mechanism, or form of government; but these never 
succeed unless they are accompanied by a change in the social 
organization. Whether a political revolution of that charac- 
ter shall be permanent, or temporary, depends therefore upon 
the fact, whether society has undergone such a change as to 
render success possible. The alterations projected in the 
EDglish government, by Pyne, Selden, &c, in 1625; those 
projected in France in 1789, by Brissot, Malouet and Mourier, 
and afterwards by the Abbe Sieges, were arbitrary or prema- 
ture. But those proposed by Somers, and Godollphin, in 1688, 
were neither arbitrary nor premature. The social revolution 
in England had commenced half a century before, and was 
then matured. The eminent men who took the lead in the 
English convention, were not masters of circumstances. They 
were themselves impelled by circumstances. They were edu- 



36 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book i. 



cated and trained in the new society which had grown up. A 
great middle class had for the first time made its appearance; 
and they were themselves born and educated in that class. 
Thus the intervention of individuals, in even modifying the 
political institutions, is dependent upon the social condition 
at the time. Abundant proof of the truth of these principles 
is to be found everywhere, and at all times. Hamilton, Madi- 
son, and their illustrious associates, were moulded by the 
society in which they lived. It was not in their power, to treat 
society as carte blanche, and to write upon it any characters 
which they pleased. Wherever society has undergone a 
marked, aud decisive change, an alteration either in the form 
or spirit of the government, or both, has invariably followed. 
In France, the spirit of the government, that is, the temper 
with which it is administered, is totally different from what it 
was under the Nalois, and Bourbon dynasties. 

The fourth principle is a deduction from the last, as each is 
from the one which precedes it, while all are ultimately refer- 
able to the first. The changes in the composition of a gov- 
ernment, never keep exact pace with those in society. But it is 
necessary to notice a distinction, which has just been hinted 
at; between the form, and the spirit of a government. The 
last, more readily, and at an earlier period, than the first, con- 
forms itself to the genius of society. The reason why this is 
so, is that changes in the social organization, take place silent- 
ly, and gradually. Nothing is accomplished by a single leap: 
but in order to pass from one form of government to another, 
or to make any material change in its mechanism, direct aud 
positive intervention is necessary. The first is the work of 
time, perhaps of centuries, the second is accomplished at a 
particular time; but the indications whether that particular 
time has or has not arrived, may be very deceptive. If the 
conservative element is weak, political changes will be precip- 
itated ; if it is strong, they will be retarded for an indefinite 
period. It is only after the changes in society have become so 
numerous and unmistakable as to compel public attention, 
that a single leap is taken. Social changes affect the whole of 
the population, but political changes are effected by a com- 
paratively small number. In order that the progress in both 
should keep exact pace, each successive change in the struc- 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



.37 



ture of society, should be followed by a corresponding change 
in that of the government. But this is impossible ; for the 
last, is the result of experience and observation ; and these 
are only matured by time. In one case, the changes consist 
in a great number of particulars, running through a consider- 
able period : the other, consisting in an analysis, and estimate 
of these, requires single acts to be performed, and that at the 
propitious time. But a change in the spirit of a government, 
may take place more quickly ; for no positive dislocation of 
the machinery of government is necessary. It is the transi- 
tion state, from a change in the social organization, to a 
change in the structure of a government. The temper with 
which the governments of western Europe are administered, 
is very different from what it was formerly. It is not necessary 
to go back to the first fifteen centuries, when all Europe was a 
bedlam. It is only necessary to turn our eyes to the Europe 
of the seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. 

The slowness with which all social changes take place, ap- 
pears to oppose great obstacles in the way of remodeling the 
government, even after society is prepared for it. But it can- 
not be otherwise; and there is always a good reason, as well 
as an adequate cause, for whatever must be. The longer the 
changes are postponed (indefinitely they cannot be) the more 
complete will be the preparation for them. The initiatory 
steps will consist in a change in the spirit of the government, 
or the temper with which it is administered, then in enlarg- 
ing the basis of representation, and eligibility to office ; in 
a separation of the regal, from the executive power, the abo- 
lition of the hereditary principle of the nobility, especially, 
where they are very numerous, the abolition of primogeni- 
ture, and of an established church. By these various steps, 
the minds of a large, and enlightened class will be gradually 
weaned from the grotesque institutions, under which they 
lived. They may then, without trembling, approach an inno- 
vation, which their ancestors contemplated with dismay. And 
when these things are accomplished, the difficulty is sur- 
mounted. In a country in which the groundwork of society is 
democratic in character, these difficulties will not occur. 
Neither the structure of the government, nor the spirit which 
presides over it, will exhibit the same discrepancies. This 



38 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[hook i. 



can only happen, however, in a community founded by a race 
which has attained a point more or less elevated in the scale 
of civilization, and whose position on the globe has exempted 
it from any serious disturbance from without, lint such a 
community will itself be progressive, and highly so. And 
changes in its institutions, will undoubtedly take place : but 
these will generally be in the laws, and not in the funda- 
mental ordinance of the government. Compared with those 
which may take place in other countries, they will be as mole- 
hills to mountains. Thus in all the States which compose the 
American Union, alterations have been made in the basis of 
representation, the electoral franchise, eligibility to office, the 
appointing power; and in those where an established religion 
existed, it has been abolished. Less change has taken place 
in the spirit of the government, because the constituted pow- 
ers were already in close agreement with the manners. But 
even there a difference is observable in the tone with which 
public affairs have at different periods been conducted. In 
1798, when party spirit ran high, Mr. Madison, the leader of 
the republican party, made this memorable speech to William 
Smith, the leader of the federal party : " The measures which 
your party are pursuing, may all be right, but the manner in 
which they are insisted upon, and carried, will assuredly ruin 
you." It was the manner, the spirit in which public affairs 
were conceived, and administered, that gave most offense. 
For during the war of 1812 and under a republican administra- 
tion, these measures were repeated. " When you have passed 
this law (alluding perhaps to the stamp duty) you will have 
described the whole circle of measures, adopted by the ad- 
ministration of John Adams," was the speech of a Senator to 
his own party. 

5. The direct agency, which the social organization had in 
rearing aud moulding the political institutions, is very percep- 
tible afterwards. It first presides over the formation of con- 
stitutions ; and after they are ordained, exercises a decisive 
influence in upholding them ; and thus contributes to main- 
tain, as well as to found order. It is evident, that if this in- 
fluence were not in perpetual activity, society would take a 
retrograde course, and the most skillfully contrived govern- 
ment would fall to pieces. In pure monarchy, or aristocracy, 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



39 



this force is very feeble, in constitutional monarchy, it is 
strong; in representative government, it is carried to the ut- 
most. 

6. The political institutions react upon society. As they are 
a reflection of the manners, habits, and intelligence of the 
population, a close connexion must exist between the two. 
Or we may conceive of the social and political institutions, as 
constituting one whole, in which the parts necessarily act upon 
one another. In this way, not only is a just agreement main- 
tained between them, but immense force is given to public 
opinion. In this process of action and reaction, each agent 
possesses an advantage peculiar to itself. The springs of 
government are moved by a comparatively small number of 
persons; but the active power of the community is condensed 
in their hands. On the other baud, public opinion, being the 
organ of a great multitude, surrounds the public magistrates 
on all sides, and coerces by dint of a moral force, which is 
irresistible. In those countries, where public opinion does 
not represent a large and intelligent body, deep hostility, in- 
stead of a salutary rivalry, will grow up among the two. But 
in consequence of the great priuciple of progression, which is 
inherent in every civilized society, the influence of the social, 
upon the political power, is constantly upon the increase. In 
this way only can we account for the fact, that all the Euro- 
pean communities, have gradually emerged from fcheir uncouth 
and antique institutions, and that in those which are most ad- 
vanced, public opinion has become a most formidable instru- 
ment. The reason why, and the manner in which government 
reacts upon society, are evident. In the preceding chapter, I 
alluded to the double office which government performs. 1st, 
in holding together the elements of civilization ; in affording 
a strong bond of connexion between the parts. 2d, in ad- 
ministering public affairs. Either of these endows it with 
great influence. The first is less observed than the second, 
because it is silent in its operation ; but every one will recog- 
nize its agency, the moment it is mentioned. As to the sec- 
ond, the complicated machinery which is necessary, in order 
to administer public affairs, with any degree of judgment, 
discloses another influence equally powerful, and in constant 
activity. The institution of the three departments of gov- 



40 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book l 



eminent, with the numberless administrative officers attached 
to them, shows clearly, that although all political institutions 
are the offspring of the manners, yet that from the moment 
they are created, they exercise a most potent influence upon 
society. 

The criminal code alone, with judicial magistrates to ex- 
pound, and executive officers to enforce it, would be a sufficient 
illustration of the great power, which government possesses 
in reacting upon society ; for its office does not consist merely 
in the punishment of offences; but by displaying a constant 
vigilance, and an imposing authority, in suppressing them, it 
disseminates, and gives a practical character to some of the 
most fundamental principles of morality. The amount of influ- 
ence thus exercised upon the whole population, must rest upon 
conjecture; but we know enough of human nature, to under- 
stand that it must be marked, and decisive. The action of the 
legislative power upon society, is clear enough. But it is much 
greater in the confederate, than in the consolidated form of 
government, in consequence of the division of the territory 
into distinct states, each possessing a legislative body which 
superintends its domestic interests. The machinery thus 
created is more wide-spread, and more penetrating, and gives 
ten fold force to the power with which government reacts upon 
society. The political, and civil codes, with their numerous 
ramifications, give compactness and coherence to the confused 
rules of conduct which would otherwise exist, and contribute 
to produce that unity of opinions and interests, which converts 
an association into a society. The diversified form in which 
the administration of public affairs is seen, contributes a great 
school of conduct, both moral and intellectual. So that if with- 
out society, there would be no government, without govern- 
ment, there would be no lasting society. 

The country in which representative government is firmly 
established, in which the social and political organization are 
in harmony, possesses these advantages in the highest degree. 
The political institutions being the offspring of a public opin- 
ion, more wide-spread and more enlightened than elsewhere, 
will exert a more profound and extensive influence upon society. 
The reason why the city of Paris has for several centuries 
domineered over all France, is that all political power has 



CHAP. II ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



41 



been condensed in Paris. It is there, thafc despotism has 
forged its weapons ; and it is there also, that the most for- 
midable parties have been organized to pervert its authority. 
The system of representation, which has always existed in 
England, and America, has rendered government more wise, 
and more beneficent, and has diffused its influence over the 
whole of society. Power has been distributed, instead of 
being condensed. The principle of universal suffrage, which 
has been adopted in France, and which at first, seemed so full 
of peril to the institutions, has succeeded beyond expectation, 
because it has given a preponderance to the rural population, 
the conservative part of society, and has thus enfeebled the 
power and influence of the government, as well as of the Par- 
isian mobocracy. The system is still very imperfect, the 
legislative power in its structure, is very defective ; but this 
can onfy be remedied when the social improvement has made 
much further advances, and the constitution of the executive 
has been remodeled in accordance with them. 

7th. The rise of parties in a state, is never dependant upon 
accident, but is determined by causes, which act with more or 
less force, at particular stages of society. ISTo country, except 
a pure despotism, or a close aristocracy, is entirely without 
them. They have existed for many centuries in some form or 
other, personal, religious, or political, (for this is the order in 
which they appear,) in almost all the governments of western 
Europe. As they are produced by causes which are inherent 
in society, their character will depend upon the structure of 
that society. Political opinions of some kind or other, exist 
in all communities, sometimes relating to the fundamentals of 
government, at others, to the diversified wants and interests 
of the population. They may be suppressed by an absolute 
government; but even then, these mute opinions are more or 
less felt, and exert some appreciable influence. When society 
has made considerable advances, a public opinion will be 
created, and will cause itself to be heard. And then parties, 
properly so called, will make their appearance. It is in the 
reign of James the First, that symptoms of the rise of a middle 
class in England are first perceptible. And it is during that 
reign, that we are able to date the first formation of genuine 
political parties in modern Europe. The elevation of the 



42 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book l 



people, gave birth to a country party, in contradistinction to tbe 
court party, and it is through the instrumentality of the first, 
that constitutional government has been established in Eng- 
land. The laws of society act with as much certainty, as the 
laws of matter, but they are not always so easily apprehended. 
The party of the Fronde, which appeared in France, soon after 
the rise of the country party in England, is the next important 
event, in the history of parties. It was almost contemporane- 
ous with the great democratic party which in England suc- 
ceeded to the country party, and revolutionized the govern- 
ment in 1648. Like the English party, it called in question 
what were then considered the fundamental principles of gov- 
ernment. But its leaders possessed none of the fervor, and 
sincerity of the English patriots, and it effected nothing. The 
mass of the population in France, was not as advanced as that 
of England ; and the Fronde succumbed to a power which had 
more strength, and not less turpitude than itself. The popular 
party in England, achieved nothing permanent, until the close 
of the century. In France, nothing was accomplished until a 
century later, and the revolution is still in progress. 

Parties, then, depend for their existence and character upon 
the constitution of society, upon the manners, as it is com- 
monly termed ; but more precisely, upon the dispersion of 
knowledge, property, and power. They are therefore, more 
distinctly formed in mixed government than in pure mon- 
archy ; and for the same reason, their organization is more 
perfect in representative government. 

As the existence of parties, depends upon causes so little 
subjected to control, they will be governed by determinate 
laws. Tliey have a destination which they never fail to per- 
form, and the agency of one or other of them, and very 
frequently of all jointly, is either immediately, or in the end, 
salutary. This would not be doubted if personal motives had 
not so much to do with the operation of parties, and if the 
designs of all parties were not sometimes so eminently unjust. 
These produce vague, and confused notions, in relation to the 
proper office of parties, and impress upon them, an almost 
exclusively empirical character. The proposition, parties 
have a destination, and their agency is ultimately salutary, 
is seldom acceded to as a whole ; but it is only as a whole, 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



43 



that the principle is a valuable one. For personal motives 
are also governed by determinate laws. Pym, and Hollis, in 
England, Brissot and Vergniand, in France, were jealous of 
the privileged orders ; they were personally annoyed by their 
intrusion into the walks of private life. But their personal 
feelings were in accordance with the tone of public opinion. 
The members who represented some of the small States, in the 
convention which framed the constitution of the United States, 
were from personal motives, jealous of a powerful central 
government. But if their importance would be obscured by 
the presence of such a government, the importance of the 
States they represented, would be also. The influence of per- 
sonal motives is sometimes necessary, in order to give strength, 
and concentration, to the public efforts, which are made in 
great emergencies : they may be as necessary in the cure of 
political disorders, as the most painful surgical operations are 
in the cure of physical maladies. If these were performed 
from malignant motives, they would not be less beneficial. 
The revolution in the time of Charles the First, could not have 
been achieved, and the way prepared for that of 1688, without 
a civil war ; that of France, could not have been conducted 
without enormous excesses. And it is remarkable, how all 
such exceptional acts, gradually pass into oblivion, leaving the 
turpitude of individuals in its original deformity, but indi- 
cating the necessity, and the salutary character of the changes^ 
which were wrought. The American revolution was singularly 
exempt from any atrocities ; because the American people had 
not, like a large portion of the French, been educated in the 
school of depravity. For the great object in France, was as 
much to get rid of such creatures as Kobespierre, Marat, 
Legendre &c, as to expel the Bourbons and the noblesse from 
power. 

8th. It is not merely the influence, and agency of the pre- 
dominant party which are important. The counteraction of the 
opposing party, or parties, is also indispensable. This is evi- 
dent from the fact, that all parties are liable to fall into 
extreme opinions. An opinion is never apprehended so clearly, 
as when it is pushed to an extreme. But it has never yet been 
permitted to auy party, to succeed to the extent of an extreme 
opinion. The aggregate of parties in the state, and not merely 



44 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book i. 



the one in the majority, compose the machinery by which public 
affairs are for any considerable period, conducted. There 
would be absolutely no machinery in the existence of more 
than one party, if this were not the case. Bat no one ever 
heard of any institution growing up in a state, and which has 
been present during all public vicissitudes, which was without 
significance and weight. The great office then, which is per- 
formed by a party in the minority, is to mitigate the extreme 
opinions of the party in the majority, and to give greater con- 
sistency to the public measures. Each party is composed of 
individuals, but a party supposes common views. That is, 
views which are not entirely selfish. If this were not the 
case, it would not be a party, but a collection of individuals. 
But in addition to this, each party represents the substantial 
interests of the whole community. In ordinary times, they 
differ with regard to a particular course of policy ; in extra- 
ordinary conjunctures, their differences are more serious. But 
in all instances, except in revolutionary times, the views of all 
are clearly connected with the interests which all parties rep- 
resent; that is, with certain fundamental principles, which 
neither party intends to disturb. The instances in which th§y 
agree, are in comparison with those in which they differ as 
fifty to one. 

The influence exerted by a party in the minority, is not 
always the same. It is shown sometimes, by converting the 
minority into the majority; at other times, by gradually and 
silently insinuating into the ranks of an extreme party, the 
moderate views of the other party. A striking illustration of 
this process is now before our eyes. The Whig party of Eng- 
land, and the Democratic party in the United States, are now 
transformed into conservative parties. 

9th. As the character of the government depends upon the 
structure of society, and society is constantly progressive, we 
may lay it down as a ninth principle, that all governments 
tend to the republican form. Even if all do not ultimately 
attain that form, they will all be sensibly improved by a con- 
stant tendency towards it. When it is said that society is 
constantly progressive, the meaning is, that there is a con- 
stantly increasing tendency, from one generation to another, 
to an amelioration of the manners, to a diffusion of intelli- 



CHAP. II.] 



Of FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



45 



gence, and to the dispersion of property. But these necessa- 
rily imply the constant advance of the bulk of the population ; 
that is, their growing elevation in the scales, and when this 
has reached a certain point, the republican form of govern- 
ment is not only practicable but natural. 

All the important changes in human affairs, whether affect- 
ing the individual, or society at large, have been of surpris- 
ingly slow growth. A multitude of the commonest arts of life, 
have only recently been brought to perfection. Inventions, 
and discoveries, which were accessible to the race, two thou- 
sand years ago, are only born of yesterday. This significant 
fact indicates the constant presence, of the principle of pro- 
gression, as affecting society in all its parts. If all the Euro- 
pean governments have passed by gradual transitions, from 
the wildest disorder, and the most brutal licentiousness, to the 
civilized commonwealths which now exist, it can only be, be- 
cause the same principle has been acting steadily, and inflexi- 
bly, upon all the elements of society. The spectacle which 
Europe presents, of so many of its governments being con- 
verted from absolute, into constitutional monarchies, is a phe- 
nomenon of the same character, as the invention of the steam 
engine, and the reaping machine. As the improvement which 
civil government undergoes, depends upon agencies much more 
complicated than the arts of industry, the progress made in 
the former, may be said to be even more rapid than in the last. 
For this very complication of all the causes which are at 
work in the social body, renders the progress more steady, and 
more certain, as every step taken, opens the way to still fur- 
ther advances. Society, after it has reached a certain point 
in the scale of civilization, resembles a vast network, in which 
all the parts are connected, and all mutually strengthen each 
other. As then it has taken the human race so many centu- 
ries to pass through the hard and difficult discipline which 
has resulted in its emancipation from despotic or anarchical 
rule, mere length of time affords no presumption against fur- 
ther and greater advances, although these should be some- 
times interrupted by the most alarming revolutions. The dif- 
ference between the institutions of the United States and 
those of Europe, at the present day, is much less than between 
the Europe of the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries, and the 



4G 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book i. 



Europe of the nineteenth. It is true, that all the European 
governments exhibit a more compact form than they ever did 
before; and the reason is obvious. The strong democratic 
element, which has been introduced into all of them during 
the present century, has contributed to fortify the authority 
of the executive, in order that the community may be protec- 
ted against the assaults of the lower classes. The reader 
then will mark the great difference between the preseut, and 
former constitutions of those governments. Until very mod- 
ern times, all power was condensed in the monarch, and this 
power was employed for the purpose of protecting him from 
all classes of society. A great middle class, a third estate, 
has risen up, which has appropriated to itself a substantial 
part of this power, and makes use of it for the purpose of 
protecting its own rights. In order to do this, it not only 
permits all the insignia of regal government to remain ; it 
adds strength to the executive authority, by covering it with 
its own influence. But such is the connexion between the 
middle and lower classes, that the elevation w hich is obtained 
by the former, redounds to the advantage of the last. 'And 
thus the apparently singular phenomenon, that while all tbe 
European governments present a more consolidated form than 
at any former period, a greater amount of both civil and polit- 
ical liberty is enjoyed, is easily explained. The throne is 
stronger, the substantial part of the population has more 
power and influence, and the lower classes are less addicted 
to turbulance, than ever before. But this is evidently a transi- 
tion state. There is no reason to suppose that the progress 
of society will be suddenly arrested, when everything con- 
spires to push it forward. There is every reason to believe 
that it will continue with a steady pace. For the tendency is 
to augment the middle class in a much greater proportion 
than either of the other classes. The vast enlargement of our 
industrial pursuits places multitudes in a state of comfort, 
and great numbers of others who would otherwise be ranged 
among the lowest classes, are collected into manufactories and 
workshops, where they are tamed, and disciplined to an orderly 
life. The European commonwealths generally, will at some 
future day, combine the two great elements of good govern- 
ment, the subjection of individuals to the public authority, 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



47 



and the subjection of the public authority to the aggregate 
of individuals, or society at large. No fear need be enter- 
tained that free governments will not possess the requisite 
ability to defend themselves agaiust foreign agression. The 
American and the Swiss republics have never been wanting 
in this respect. But the military spirit, and regime, are evi- 
dently on the decline, not in consequence of any casual turn 
which human affairs have taken ; but in consequence of causes, 
which affect deeply and permanently all classes. The vast 
system of industry to which I have alluded, and which con- 
nects all orders of men is not maintained merely by reflexion; 
it is supported by the most powerful instincts of our nature ; 
by that very egotism, ambition, and love of power, which first 
kindled the military spirit, and which have now found another 
field in which to exhaust their activity. The system thus for- 
tified, by both the higher and lower faculties of our nature, 
cannot be easily broken up. The most reasonable conjecture 
we can form is, that it will be permanent ; and that more 
than any other cause, it will determine the habitual conduct 
of men, in private life and in public associations. 

lOtho The principle of progression is inherent in a republic, 
as well as in all other forms of government. The human race 
never attains a point so high, but what something still higher 
is conceived, not only as possiole, but practicable. It is this 
power of conceiving something beyond, attainable, and yet not 
attained, which constitutes the moving spring of all human 
improvement. In representative goverment, the special ex- 
perience which is afforded, while the system is in actual opera- 
tion, and which is constantly applied to satisfy the diversified 
wants and interests of the community, is exhibited upon a 
much larger scale, than in any other form of government, and 
gives a visible form to this principle of improvement. A 
republic has its successive periods of infancy, growth, and 
maturity; und through the two first, it will be subjected to 
many, though not to such severe vicissitudes as other govern- 
ments. This is not surprising ; for as the virtues of indi- 
viduals, are in great part the offspring of their sufferings, and 
infirmities, all the excellences, and benefits of government 
must spring from difficulties and dangers of some sort, in 
public life. The conflict between public and private interest, 



48 NATURE AND TENDENCY [book i. 

the rivalry between the selfish, or personal, and the social 
instincts, must exist in every form of society. And although 
a democratic commonwealth affords the readiest means for 
conciliating these opposite forces, the conflict will not be ter- 
minated, but will continue to harass the community ; but at 
the same time to lay open a valuable fund of experience, for 
its future guidance. 

The first, or initiative stage of the republican government, 
will be one of great tranquility. This is a consequence of the 
thinness of the population, the simplicity of the manners, and 
the mild influence w T hich the prominent meti will have. This 
is the time when we hear of a Solon, a Lycurgus, and a Xiima. 
This influence, however, will not be the same everywhere. In 
a country where a great deal of practical knowledge already 
exists, and a corresponding self-reliance is felt, the inhabitants 
will be able to manage their own affairs. Hence, at the foun- 
dation of the American States, although the human mind 
was deeply agitated by questions of civil and political liberty, 
no individual exercised a supreme influence, but the people 
went straight forward to the making of laws, and of every 
other disposition, which the exigencies of society required. 
The chief men did possess great influence; for knowledge is 
power everywhere; but they were not invested with control, 
and no one individual was selected to frame a body of laws. 
The only instance of direct personal intervention occurred in 
the case of the first constitution of New York. This was 
drawn up by Mr. Jay; but unlike the constitutions of anti- 
quity, it was submitted to a popular convention. The changes 
it has undergone at different periods, indicate the great ad- 
vantages derived from popular experience. The la^t constitu- 
tion (that of 1846) shows a much clearer comprehension of 
the wants and interests of the society for which is was framed : 
it contains more exact and definite safeguards, for both public 
and private rights, than either of the preceding ones. 

The second period is marked by a wider dissemination of 
knowledge, and property; a middle class is more clearly dis- 
tinguished than before; and although the lower class has per- 
ceptibly increased, the influence of the former is predominant, 
and becomes a strong guard against the incroachments of the 
last. For it cannot be too often repeated that it is unueces- 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



49 



sary, even if it were possible, that the whole population 
should be equally elevated in the scale, in order to found, or to 
maintain free institutions: it is unnecessary that the informed 
and independent class should even be a majority : it is enough 
if it is so large as to display an imposing and authoritative 
influence in the state, and so united by interest with all other 
classes, as to insure a just and equitable administration of 
the laws. If when the moral force of the community is con- 
densed in an inconsiderable part of the population, as it is in 
constitutional monarchy, order is notwithstanding preserved, 
a further augmentation of that force must add strength and 
stability to the institutions. Public order is infinitely better 
preserved in the European commonwealths than at any former 
period, and it is precisely because the middle class have 
greatly increased in nearly all of them. 

In the second stage of a republic, there is an evident ten- 
dency to the growth of the democratic element; but simulta- 
neously with it, a powerfully counteracting principle also rises 
up, which constantly operates to restrain the aberrations of 
the first : for then, knowledge and general education take a 
fresh start ; every year increases the fund of popular experi- 
ence in public and private life, and affords practical proofs of 
the benefit to be derived from an obedience to the laws. Up 
to a certain point, force may be sufficient for the tolerable 
preservation of order ; but this clumsy machinery is out of 
place when society has made great advances. It is then 
necessary that the principle of spontaneous and willing obe- 
dience should take the place of forced obedience ; not among 
all classes, but among that substantial part of the population 
which is now destined to command. The true meaning, then, 
of that spread of active intelligence and speculative knowl- 
edge which are growing up side by side of the democratic 
element, is that it is the corrective, created by that very 
principle, of the disorders of society. The democratic ele- 
ment stimulates inquiry in every direction : but inquiry can 
not continue long without accumulating both knowledge and 
experience; and in this way a check is provided against the 
excesses to which unlimited inquiry would otherwise lead. A 
comparison of the state of popular knowledge fifty years ago, 
and at the present day, would show that there has been a 
4 



50 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book l 



most decisive improvement in the interval. When the Lu- 
theran Eeformation broke out, it threatened to turn society 
upside down. For more than half a century, great numbers 
of sects, founded upon the wildest principles, threatened to 
tear each other to pieces, and to render the spirit of free in- 
quiry productive only of mischief. The gradual, and steady 
increase of knowledge has cured all these idiosyncracies ; and 
Germany, and Switzerland, where they were most prevalent, 
are now filled with an orderly, industrious, and intelligent 
population. To place the idea in the strongest light: if the 
people of the United States were no more advancd in intelli- 
gence than the Eussian population is now, or than that of 
western Europe two centuries ago, and the democratic prin- 
ciple were as strong as it is now (which I confess it could not 
be) it would tear the frame of society to pieces; so clear and 
indisputable is the operation of those great general principles 
which rule over both society and government. 

There is no doubt but that the class of secondary laws — 
those which govern the minute movements of the machinery 
— are equally certain ; but they are less accessible to our ob- 
servation, and wisely so, because they would be exposed to 
too great interference ; but this interference, whenever it is 
wise and practicable, is only a link in the series of laws. 
General laws which connect a great number of particulars, 
are also beyond our interference ; but they are more open to 
observation, and may be predicted with great precision. We 
may foretell, with all the certainty which is requisite for 
rational speculation, what will be the character of American 
institutions at a future day ; for the only way by which we can 
see into the future, is to study the past. We may reasonably 
suppose variations in the phenomena" presented by the two 
societies of France and the United States, but we are not at 
liberty to suppose a change in the groundwork, or so to trans- 
pose the order of events in the two countries as to place the 
American society in France, and the French society in the 
United States. 

As to the third and last stage of a republic, it may last for 
an indefinite period. When government is so constructed as 
to protect the interests of all classes; when no plausible 
ground of complaint can exist; when it is understood by long 



chap. II.] OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 51 

experience that there are some evils which are necessarily in- 
cident to the best contrived institutions; when government 
presses with great weight upon the whole population, in con- 
sequence of its representing a genuine public opinion, all the 
chief requisites for securing public order will be attained. No 
political system has ever fallen into decline, unless the princi- 1 
pies which presided over its formation have been modified by 
the renovating hand of time. And such is the obstinacy with 
which every society clings to the customs and institutions 
which have become habitual to it, that those principles have 
seldom been entirely subverted, except by some powerful 
disturbing force from without. When communities like the 
European, have passed from an inferior to a superior condi- 
tion, the institutions, both civil and political, have exhibited 
great variations: but this is in consequence of a principle of 
progression, not of decay. Every being throughout the whole 
organic world, whether individual or collective, has a nature 
or constitution impressed upon it which it cannot transcend. 
In the highest class of organized beings, man, this principle 
is most distinctly seen, in consequence of the great variety 
and mutual connection of his faculties, and the consequently 
greater strength and more complete development of his being. 
But the tendency to progress— to the improvement of his con- 
dition — is itself one of the prime laws of his nature, and can 
no more be eradicated than any other of his original instincts : 
and as his character can only be developed in society — that 
is, in a state which exercises all his faculties, moral and intel- 
lectual—the tendency to society may be regarded as a final 
consequence of his whole nature. Thus the collective being 
which we denominate society, is also endowed with a certain 
constitution, or nature, which it persists in maintaining, sub- 
ject only to the great law of progression. But in representa- 
tive government the relations of the individuals who compose 
it are more numerous and complicated than in any other form 
of government, and therefore more difficult to disturb. For 
this reason it has the strongest tendency to preserve its origi- 
nal structure amidst all the disturbances to which every part 
of the social economy is more or less exposed. 

The principles I have enumerated, and of which I have 
given a rapid analysis, apply to society at large, or to such 



52 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



considerable bodies of nieii as to reader the two almost iden- 
tical. The intervention of individuals is very limited when 
the democratic element has rendered the machinery of gov- 
ernment exceedingly complex. This then becomes a system, 
and not merely a collection of expedients, loosely imposed, 
and loosely administered. But there is an exception ; and 
that is, where selfish or personal motives exercise great influ- 
ence over the actions of public men. An acquaintance with 
history, and an attentive observation of the course of public 
affairs in the United States, disclose the fact that private mo- 
tives do exert a powerful influence upon the conduct of poli- 
ticians generally. This appears to be a startling fact; and 
the inquiry very naturally suggests itself, what security is 
there for upholding free institutions, where those who admin- 
ister the government are subject to such capital defects. 
There is no reason to suppose that there will be any material 
change in the character of public men in this respect: but 
the difficulty is in great part removed if we consider the 
alterations which have been wrought in the structure of gov- 
ernment, and the consequent change in the character of public 
measures. In the first place, in a democractic republic the 
list of debateable questions — questions affecting fundamen- 
tally the interests of society — is very much reduced. They 
are withdrawn from intrusion, locked up and sequestered; 
not merely in consequence of the establishment of a written 
constitution, but in consequence of that very form of society 
which has originated constitutions. Xo public man agitates 
the question whether there shall be an hereditary monarch, an 
order of nobility, or an established church; whether the press 
shall be free; whether a high qualification shall be imposed 
upon the right of suffrage, and the people forbidden to assem- 
ble in order to discuss public measures. No one desires that 
the public treasure should be expended upon an army of 
courtiers, or that the most cruel and unjust wars should be 
undertaken in order to pamper the ambition of a reckless or 
dissolute prince, or to maintain a corrupt minister in power. 
These questions, and many others connected with them, are 
withdrawn from discussion. If they were not, the govern- 
ment would not be a republic. 
2d. This form of government introduces us into a condi- 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



53 



tion of society in which the interests of a great multitude of 
persons are obliged to be consulted. Even if these should 
not constitute an absolute majority, the face of public affairs 
will be greatly improved. 

It is the number of wills, which are obliged to be consulted, 
both in founding and administering government, which deter- 
mines its character. If it is small, the institutions cannot be 
free; if it is very large, they m,ust be so, and the way is 
opened to a reconciliation between private and public interest, 
or between personal and patriotic motives. Catholic emanci- 
pation, parliamentary reform, and the repeal of the corn laws, 
the three great measures of the English government, during 
the present century, are signal triumphs of public over pri- 
vate interests ; and their achievement is due to the remark- 
able increase of the middle class, and consequently, to the 
great number of wills which were obliged to be consulted ; 
and although this identification of public and private motives, 
can never be carried as far as is desirable, yet it is a great ad- 
vantage, whenever there is any sensible approach to it. In the 
artificial forms of government, the public weal is not con- 
trolled systematically, and of set purpose: in a representa- 
tive government, it is the chief thing to be controlled. In the 
first, public men make the public welfare subservient to their 
private views and ambition : in the second, they look for the 
gratification of their private interests, through the promotion 
of the public welfare. Cecil, the famous minister of Eliza- 
beth, declared that he would make parliament his instrument 
in governing England. But the face of things have entirely 
changed: and parliament now governs through the instru- 
mentality of ministers. The influence of personal motives 
upon public measures, is greatly weakened by the publicity 
they acquire in a republic. In the long run, it is almost an- 
nulled by the great diversity of interests, which in America, 
engage the attention of the Federal and State governments. 

The restraining influence to which I have alluded, which 
compels a reconciliation, more or less complete, between pri- 
vate and public interests, is discernible in the history of those 
governments. I do not merely refer to the conflicts between 
private associations and the public, in which the last has al- 
ways prevailed. I refer to the whole body of laws, which from 



54 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



1783, to the present day, show an entire preponderance of pub- 
lic views, in the largest sense of the term, over private views ; 
while at the same time, private happiness and prosperity have 
been furthered in an eminent degree. So that to make use 
of the felicitous expression of Ames, the office of government 
has consisted in the dispensation of benefits, rather than in 
the display of authority and power. 

Some idea may be formed of the ease and regularity with 
which the different functions of government may be perform- 
ed, in a highly advanced community, by examining some of 
the elements of which it is composed. I have before me, a 
range of warehouses, some retail stores, a gas factory, and 
boats plying on the canal. These contain a mimic representa- 
tion of government. There is a regular subordination of em- 
ployments, each superintended by its respective head. They 
are conducted by agents, who exhibit the same variety of 
character and habits, which are found in the larger govern- 
ment. They have been collected from the town and country: 
some perhaps, possessed careless and improvident habits; 
others prudent and industrious ones. All have been con- 
verted into useful and sternuous workers, through the influ- 
ence of the occupations in which they are engaged. All ap- 
pear to understand the machinery which sets them in motion ; 
and all act under a conviction, that their interests are identi- 
fied with its successful working. Sometimes former habits 
return ; sometimes, but very rarely, a discontented individual 
rises up against the authority which is set over him ; and 
these are like the petty commotions which disturb the larger 
society. 

Although the number of the disorderly increases as society 
advances, it does not increase in the same proportion as the 
whole population. It is altogether less in France or Ireland, 
than when those countries contained one-half of their present 
population. The tendency to a predominance of the lower 
faculties, is well marked everywhere; but there are two prin- 
ciples which are unceasingly at work to counteract this ten- 
dency. The social instinct constitutes a connecting link be- 
tween our moral and intellectual nature. It partakes of the 
appetites and propensities, and at the same time, of the 
character, which belongs to the sentiments and intellectual 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



55 



qualities. It has thus succeeded in being the great civilizer 
of the human race. In the second place, there is a perpetual 
conflict between the passions and propensities of different in- 
dividuals. When ill regulated, their gratification interferes 
with the comfort and enjoyment of others — even of those who 
indulge in similar courses; and in order that they may be 
reasonably gratified, among the great majority of the popula- 
tion, they are obliged to be restrained in society. If this 
check did not exist, the most depraved qualities might gain 
universal ascendancy, and there would be neither society nor 
government. The rivalry between the propensities of indi- 
viduals, has a tendency to repress them in all, and to allow 
room for the expansion of the industrial and moral qualities, 
which gratify both the selfish and social instincts. The two 
principles I have mentioned, gain strength as society ad- 
vances. The jostling of interests, becomes more frequent 
and corrective ; the sense of propriety and justice, becomes 
stronger, and the convergence of private interests, to a com- 
mon social end, is more fully disclosed. As the interests of 
society are only the aggregata of the interests of the individ- 
uals who compose it, there can be no natural hostility between 
the two. It is only when the last encroach upon the first, 
that is, invade the interests of others, that 'they become mis- 
chievous. The increase of the population creates a powerful 
restraint to this ; for it multiplies the social relations in every 
direction, and therefore renders them stronger. But as the 
population increases, the sum of knowledge and information 
also increases, and contributes to reinforce the power of re- 
sistance. There is not a single European state, in which the 
advance of knowledge, among all orders, except the very low- 
est, is not discernable. There is not one, not excepting Spain 
or Portugal, (in which the increase of population has been 
most backward), which is not a better ordered community, 
than it was ten centuries, or one century ago. 



5G 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



CHAPTER III. 

THE FOUNDATION OF GOVERNMENT, AND RIGHT OF THE 
MAJORITY TO RULE. 

The foundation of government is laid in the nature of 
man ; and this fact, simple as it is, explains how civil insti- 
tutions came to have a beginning; and why it is that they 
have rightful authority to command. It is sometimes sup- 
posed that the most natural view would be to consider indi- 
viduals as possessing, originally, the right of self-government: 
but that cannot be natural which contradicts the constitution 
of human nature. The mistake arises from overlooking, or 
confounding, the double nature of man. He has attributes 
which are peculiar to him as an individual. On the other 
hand he has innumerable relations to the beings who sur- 
round him. If we could suppose the former to swallow up 
his whole being, -then it would be correct to say, not only that 
self-government was originally the rule, but we should be 
driven to the conclusion that it is now the rule, and must be 
so in all time to come. But as this is not the case, we are 
relieved from stating an unsound proposition, and from fol- 
lowing it up by the most mischievous consequences. In truth 
the difficulty does not so much consist in conceiving how a 
collective body of men should be subjected to the government 
of society, as in imagining how such a body, constituting in 
its natural signification a society, should know no other rule 
than the government of individuals. To say that many thou- 
sands, or many millions of men, inhabit together the same 
region, is to imply that they have a multitude of relations to 
each other, and a system of interests which are common to 
all. No man can practise a duty, or exercise a right, without 
touching more or less upon the corresponding duties and 
rights of other men. 

But as this view admits that man has a double nature, it 



CHAP. HI.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



57 



may be inquired, what higher and stronger reason there is 
why those attributes which make him the being of society 
should have the precedence ; why, in fine, they should be en- 
titled to rule over the individual, rather thau that the indi- 
vidual should be permitted to have control over society : and 
laying aside the impracticability and self-contradictiou in- 
volved in this notion, the answer is plain, that in society the 
whole of our nature may be completely unfolded ; while out of 
it hardly any part is even tolerably developed. The scheme 
of self-government, as it erects the will of the individual into 
the supreme arbiter of his actions, necessarily implies the vio- 
lation by each, of the rights of all ; and would thus mutilate 
and destroy even the character of the individual, if it did not 
produce the utter extermination of the race. 

It is no wonder, therefore, that men in all ages have in- 
stinctively taken shelter under some sort of political institu- 
tions. The imperfection of these institutions is a natural 
consequence of the very imperfect nature of man. This does 
not show that the scheme is wrong, but rather that its excel- 
lence is such that it cannot be carried thoroughly into prac- 
tice. Imperfect as all human contrivances necessarily are, 
civil government has been found necessary to the supply of 
our wants, the protection of our rights, and to the lifting of 
our condition much above that of the brutes. 

Several theories have been proposed to account for the first 
formation of government. Some writers consider it as a 
divine institution ; while others suppose that it originated in 
compact. This compact, however, has been described very dif- 
ferently. Mr. Locke treating it as an agreement between the 
people and their rulers ; while Hobbes and Rousseau suppose 
the agreement was simply among the people themselves. 

There is this very important distinction between the exact 
and the moral sciences, that in the former, a proposition is 
either altogether true, or false ; while in the last, there may be, 
and very frequently is, a mixture of both truth and error. 
This renders it exceedingly difficult to deal with moral propo- 
sitions. Truth and error may be combined in every propor- 
tion ; and it is only where the balance inclines greatly to the 
one side or the other, that we can be sure we are right in 
adopting a given view. But there is this great compensation 



58 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I 



resulting from this defect, and the total dissimilarity between 
these two departments of knowledge, that in politics, when 
we embrace an error, we very often embrace a considerable 
portion of truth along with it. Thus, in those matters which 
vitally affect the interests and happiness of mankind, the 
understanding is hardly ever condemned to the dominion of 
absolute and unqualified error. If one side of a proposition 
were altogether true, and the other altogether false, the adop- 
tion of the latter would give rise to something more than a 
theoretical error ; it would produce consequences fatal to the 
peace and well-being of society. The advantage which flows 
from this complete dissimilarity between two leading depart- 
ments of our knowledge is not seen in those abstract proposi- 
tions which, whatever way they may be decided, affect practice 
very little: but it is strikingly displayed in that vast multi- 
tude of questions which are of daily occurrence in administer- 
ing the complicated concerns of an established and regular 
community. That is to say, the advantage arising from the 
principle increases in exact proportion to its application to 
the actual affairs of men. 

The two theories which I have referred to are an illustration 
of these views. The first, although exceedingly far-fetched, 
has this much of verisimilitude, that the divine law consti- 
tutes the highest standard of right of which we can have any 
conception, and communities as well as individuals, in all 
their schemes of action, are bound to be guided by it. But 
if we were to interrogate a philosopher or mechanician as to 
the cause of the movements of some complicated machine, 
and they were to refer it to the divine agency, we should de- 
rive no satisfaction from the explanation. In one sense the 
solution would be correct, since the Supreme Being is the 
author of everything : but no addition would be made to our 
knowledge. So with regard to government; what we want to 
know, and what we are immediately concerned in knowing, is 
the process, the human instrumentality, which has given rise 
to the institution. If we were satisfied with the sweeping 
answer, curiosity and inquiry into the operation of those sec- 
ondary laws which determine the form of particular govern- 
ments would be damped, and we should make very little 
effort to improve an institution which was placed so entirely 



CHAP. III.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



59 



beyond our reach. Accordingly a doctrine which has the ap- 
pearance of introducing the highest and justest rules into the 
conduct of political societies, is the one which has been at- 
tended with the most mischievous consequences. The advo- 
cates of the "jure divino right" have, at the same time, been 
the most idolatrous worshippers of the absolute power of 
governments; while the plain and homely understandings who 
have rejected it, have set themselves vigorously to work to 
extend the blessings of rational freedom, and to build up for- 
tresses against the encroachments of power. 

The other theory, which places the foundation of govern- 
ment in campact, especially the view taken by Hobbes and 
Rousseau, approaches the truth much nearer. It is not abso- 
lutely incorrect even as an historical fact. Compact is the 
only legitimate basis upon which government can stand. And 
if any one will turn his attention to the formation of the Amer- 
ican constitutions, he will find that the idea is carried into 
actual practice. With an example so complete and decisive, 
it would be a very lame answer to say, with an eminent writer, 
that if the American procedure was not followed at the first 
dawn of society, where government, like the infant in the cra- 
dle, was the creature of circumstances, therefore it is not 
entitled to notice. No machine, no production of art, or sci- 
ence, which was the fruit of man's exertions, at the present 
day, or a thousand years ago, could have any claim to origin- 
ality, if this view were correct. All must be referred to an 
infantile society, simply because the men who have since lived, 
descended directly from that society. 

There are two principles which preside over, and give a 
direction to the actions of men: reflection and spontaneous 
feeling. And there is this fine provision in our nature, that 
where the attainment of an important end is desirable, which 
cannot be completely compassed without the aid of reflection, 
and yet the reflection is wanting, still there is a corresponding 
appetite, or sentiment which enables us to feel our way. This, 
in a society which has made any considerable advance, is 
denominated common sense. In a rude one, it is called sagac- 
ity, or instinct. Thus, in those communities which existed at 
a period anterior to written history, although we cannot con- 
ceive anything like a formal agreement to have been entered 



*> u NATURE AND TENDENCY [book l 

into, we can very readily suppose — indeed, we are compelled 
to suppose— that the minds of all the adult males, however 
untutored, spontaneously, and without any set purpose, con- 
spired to that end. That those communities were societies, 
that is, collections of men in the aggregate, is abundantly 
sufficient to authorize the supposition. Certain it is, that in 
the rudest community, at the present day, that of the North 
American Indian, I discern far more evidences of the preva- 
lence of a common will, as actuating the tribe, than of the 
independent and uncontrolled will of the individual. 

We talk of tacit or implied agreements, even in jurispru- 
dence, and give the same force and authority to them which 
we do to express ones. And with great reason.' Our notions 
of right and wrong, of just and unjust, are not determined by 
our positive agreements ; but the reverse. So much so, that 
the same force is sometimes given to that which ought to be, 
as if it were actually declared to be. For the same reason, 
although we might not be able to find any trace in a primitive 
community of an express compact, we should discover far 
more evidences, of that form of society which results from 
one, than we should of the self-government of individuals. 
In other words, the causes which lead men to society, and 
suggest the formation of political communities, for the man- 
agement of the common interests are of such controlling effi- 
cacy, that they act independently of any formal agreement. 
And if the contrivances of government are very imperfect at 
first, the same imperfection belongs to the whole sphere of 
individual action. Although in the most perfect form of 
society, that of a representative republic, men possess far 
more personal freedom than they do as members of a rude 
tribe, yet it would be very incorrect to say, that they did not 
enjoy individual liberty in this last state. 

Moreover, although societies of men may originally have 
been gathered by accident, and civil institutions planted for- 
tuitously, the difficulty of conceiving such a thing as a social 
compact becomes less with every advance of civilization and 
knowledge. No one supposes that the authority of govern- 
ment, even in Great Britain and France, stands upon the same 
uncertain foundation as in the reigns of Henry VII. and Louis 
XI. The idea that some sort of agreement lies at the founda- 



CHAP. III.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



61 



tiou of government is so inseparable from the human mind, so 
constantly present in every form of society that it survives all 
the mutations which human affairs undergo ; and at length 
causes this compact to be reduced to practice in all its details. 
Thus, at the present moment a convention is assembled in the 
most populous and powerful of the American States,* for the 
purpose of forming a new constitution ; and that convention 
was elected by the votes of all the adult males in the State. 

Even in some of the European States, there is a settled con- 
viction at the present day, not only among the reflecting, but 
with the great bulk of the population, that the promotion of 
the general weal is the only legitimate end of government. 
Obstacles may have to be encountered in realizing the idea ; 
but the idea is predominant. I can easily imagine that all the 
adults of a society may assemble for the purpose of forming a 
constitution, and yet this constitution be very imperfect. Still 
it would be literally true, that the form of government was 
the creature of compact. The imperfection might be the 
result of some defects inherent in human nature, or of circum- 
stances which were uncontrollable. 

That all governments stand at least upon the looting of an 
implied contract, is of the greatest importance in politics. 
For then every advance in knowledge adds strength to the 
notion, and ultimately converts the implied into a solemn and 
formal agreement. And as our inquiries in political philoso- 
phy are not bounded by the actual, but are chiefly concerned 
with what ought to be and what may be made to be the 
theory of the social compact, should ever be held up as consti- 
tuting the firmest and the most rational foundation of civil 
institutions, and as that scheme which all people and law- 
givers should make continual efforts to approach, even if it 
should not always be attained. 

Great difficulty is sometimes expressed with-regard to the 
rule of the majority ; a rule which evidently lies at the foun- 
dation of free government. The difficulty is in truth no 
greater in the case of communities than of individuals, each 
of whom has conflicting and contradictory interests, opinions, 
and feelings, and yet kuows that it is necessary to pursue 
some determinate plan, not merely to act successfully, but in 



* New York. 



62 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



order to act at all. And if one could conceive all the people 
of a State as composing parts of one mighty individual, this 
great being would be as much agitated and embarrassed by 
discordant views, as political communities are. He would be 
obliged to be governed by the majority of reasons in favor of 
or against a proposed line of conduct. Difficulties of this 
kind afford matter for curious and subtile speculation, but 
they rarely disturb the judgment, or interfere much with prac- 
tice. To say that the rule of the majority is a rule of sheer 
necessity, and must prevail on that account, would be an im- 
perfect explanation. But, if we say, that it resembles those 
great general laws, which bind together both the physical and 
the moral world, which are only rendered necessary because 
they produce beneficial results, we then shed light upon the 
reason, as well as upon the mode of its operation. 

If, in laying the foundation of government, our design is to 
consult the common interests of the whole population, there is 
no alternative but the rule of the majority. If when the vote 
is taken, either among the citizens at large, or in the legisla- 
tive body which represents them, the will of the greater num- 
ber did not prevail, the minority would be at liberty to act 
without rule, not merely as regarded themselves, but in regard 
to the majority also, and in this way we should fall into the 
solecism of self-government, where several distinct wills have 
power, not only to govern themselves in relation to their indi- 
vidual interests, but also to infringe in innumerable ways upon 
the general interests of the society. Even if we suppose that 
the majority should retire and form a separate government, a 
new minority would immediately appear, and this would be 
the case on every subdivision of the population, however min- 
ute it might be. The process, if continued, and it must be, 
once it is commenced, will unfold the preposterous and mis- 
chievous effects which would flow from departing from the 
simple and intelligible rule I have referred to. When the 
population, by repeated subdivisions, was morseled into the 
smallest fractions which would admit of a majority and minor- 
ity, there would, in a country of twenty-one millions of people, 
be no less than seven millions of distinct governments. And, 
to be consistent, the division must be pursued still further, 
for in each of those seven millions of lilliputian bodies politic, 



CHAP. III.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



63 



there is one individual to disagree to everything. The effect 
would be to create ten millions and a half of such govern- 
ments ; or, as it would be absurd when these assemblies were 
each reduced to two persons, not to accord to them equal 
authority, there would ultimately be precisely the same num- 
ber of governments as individuals, that is, twenty-one mil- 
lions. It is needless to add, that before the process had been 
repeated four or five times, society would be delivered over to 
wild uproar and confusion. 

The rule of the majority does not disappoint the design of 
goverument, which is to represent the interests of the whole 
community, and not merely those of a part. On the contrary, 
it is the only principle which is calculated to secure the hap- 
piness and prosperity of the whole. The various opinions 
and views which are current in society, evidently do not exist 
for the purpose of being carried literally into practice. Their 
great use consists in this, that they rouse inquiry, sharpen 
discussion, lead to extended and thorough examination; and 
thus, by elicitiug the truth in the only way in which it can be 
elicited, produce the greatest attainable advantage to the 
whole community. Men's opinions and feelings may be the 
most diverse imaginable, but their interests cannot be so. 
The giving free scope to the first, and then subjecting them to 
the will of the majority, is the only way to give consistency to 
the last, and of reducing to a system, the complicated concerns 
of society. The keen and searching inquisition which in a 
democratic republic, is made into all the schemes of public 
policy, constitutes a species of experiment upon their value 
and practicability, without which no permanent benefit could 
be secured to the whole, or to any part of society. Without 
this process, men would become mere automata in the pursuit 
of ends, to which instinct, not an enlightened reason, prompted 
them. So that the existence of a majority and minority, and 
yet the supremacy of the former, instead of marring the great 
design of civil institutions, contributes directly to advance it. 

It may be laid down as a proposition, admitting of few ex- 
ceptions, that whenever a majority is competent to take care 
of its own interests, it will also be competent to take care of 
those of the minority. This results from two circumstances: 
first, that all the prominent and substantial interests of the 



C4: 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



lesser will be included in those of the larger body ; and, sec- 
ondly, that parties in a republic — the only form of govern- 
ment in which the terms majority and minority are legitimate 
expressions — do not occupy the fixed position which they have 
in monarchy and aristocracy : on the contrary, the individ- 
uals composing them are constantly shifting places, some 
passing from the major to the minor, and others sliding from 
the minor into the major party. 

The constant tendency in a republic, is to the formation of 
a middle class, as the predominant body in the community. 
The consequence is, that so numerous a party as a majority 
cannot exist without being principally composed of that class. 
If the minority should be exclusively formed from it — a cir- 
cumstance which cannot occur — the majority will at least 
draw the greatest proportion of its members from it. Now a 
middle class may be said fairly to represent the interests which 
are common to the whole society. The very rich and the very 
poor may be sure that their extravagant and unreasonable 
desires will not be consulted ; but they may be equally certain 
that all their just claims will be regarded, and that, notwith- 
standing the occasional gusts which blow over society, their 
solid interests will be as carefully and effectually watched as, 
humanly speaking, can be the case. It can hardly be other- 
wise, as this great middle class was originally formed, and is 
constantly recruited, from the ranks of those who commenced 
life with little or no property, and as the ambition of every 
one is to move forward and to rise as fast as possible into the 
class of the rich. Moreover the laws which protect property 
in a democratic community are necessarily common to all who 
have property — to the man worth a million, as well as to one 
who possesses only two thousand dollars. 

It is then correct to say, that in a country where free in- 
stitutions exist, all the great interests of the minority will be 
inclosed in those of the majority; that the public men who 
conduct the one party will, in no important respect, be dif- 
ferent from those who conduct the otber. and that the great 
variety of opinions which divide the community will not in 
the long run, and in the general upshot of human affairs, 
affect fundamentally or even sensibly the well-being of the 
state. 



CHAP. Ill ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



05 



There is no other alternative than a government based upon 
the will of the majority, or some one of the artificial forms of 
government ; and hereditary monarchy a«d aristocracy do not 
properly represent either a majority or minority. I speak now 
of pure monarchy and aristocracy. For by a partial combina- 
tion of free institutions with the hereditary principle, the will 
of the minority may be introduced into some part of the gov- 
ernment, but never that of the majority. The term minority 
is merely a comparative one. It is so intrinsically, and not 
merely verbally. A party in the minority is said to exist in 
reference to another party in the majority, because its opin- 
ions are formed in contradiction to those of the last. The 
minority may be said to spring from the majority. If in pure 
monarchies, as Eussia and Spain, or in pure aristocracies, 
such as Venice and Genoa once were, there is no way of giv- 
ing expression to the opinions and collecting the will of the 
majority, there cannot, properly speaking, be a minority. 
Limited or constitutional monarchies, as Great Britain and 
France, make some approach to the formation of these par- 
ties, because a distinct element has found its way into the 
composition of the government. But monarchy and aristoc- 
racy, in their naked forms, are a species of self-existing gov- 
ernment ; although the notion of a social compact is never 
lost from the population, no more than the notions of right 
and wrong, the just and the unjust, are ever obliterated from 
the minds of the rudest people; yet these governments are 
upheld, for the most part, by superstition and fear, and have 
jrower to perpetuate themselves, without making any direct 
and declared appeal to any part of society. 

But it is a .very important step towards the formation of 
regular government when the institutions, or any part of 
them, come to be founded even upon the will of a definite 
minority. The end at which government should aim begins 
then to be seen in a clearer light. The mind is gradually 
. weaned from the notion of the "jure divino" right of rulers. 
As a considerable part of the population participates directly 
or indirectly in the administration of the government, the ex- 
ercise of political privileges by this part constitutes a school 
of instruction, which spreads its influence over the whole 
community; so that if we compare the England and Scotland 
5 



66 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book i. 



of the present day, with what they were in the reign of Eliza- 
beth, when, as has been finely said, the intelligent were "like 
gaudy flowers upon a putrid marsh," we shall find that the 
well-informed are now as one hundred to one at the former 
period. 

The moment that a considerable body of the people begin 
to exercise a visible authority in the state, the way is prepared 
for the ultimate rule of the majority. Men then begin, for 
the first time, to analyze their ideas on political subjects. As 
public men are now restrained by a force residing out of the 
government; as the party which wields the popular branch of 
the legislature, although it is a minority out of doors, is 5 et 
obliged to defer to the opinions of every part of the commu- 
nity, intelligent men — indeed persons of very ordinary saga- 
city — naturally interrogate themselves, why an artificial dis- 
tinction, such as the possession of landed property alone, 
should be permitted to stamp the character of citizenship 
upon the population ; why, in fine, a straight line should be 
drawn through society, placing beyond the pale of the politi- 
cal franchises great numbers of men of substantial condition, 
and every way qualified to bear a part in the administration 
of public affairs. 

We may then make a more particular division of govern- 
ments than that contained in the first chapter. We may 
divide them into three classes : 1st. One of self-existing gov- 
ernments, as absolute monarchy and aristocracy. 2d. Gov- 
ernments which rest upon the will of a definite minority of 
the population, of which limited or constitutional monarchies 
are an example ; and 3d. Governments which represent the 
will of the majority, of which the democratic republic is the 
only example. The two first are mere subdivisions of the 
more general classification into the artificial forms of govern- 
ment. Nor is the classification a refined one. On the con- 
trary, it is entitled to the strictest attention. For the period 
when government succeeds in founding itself upon the will of 
the clear minority marks a most important era in the history 
of society. It denotes that a majority of the population, al- 
though politically passive, are yet intellectually active ; and 
there is yet this further consequence flowing from it, that if 
the minority contain a large proportion of the substantial 



CHAP. III.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



07 



people, their interests, opinions and feelings will more and 
more resemble those which are common to the great bulk of 
the community. So that if government is not administered 
in the best possible manner, it will be infinitely better admin- 
istered than in pure monarchy or aristocracy. I observe that 
in Great Britain and France every year adds to the force of 
public opinion ; that the governing power no longer supposes 
that it is absolved from paying attention to the sentiments 
and wishes of even the most inconsiderable class ; but that, 
on the contrary, it makes great efforts to accommodate the 
legislation to the interests of every part of the community. 
One of the most remarkable circumstances attending the rule 
of the majority is, that it is no sooner invested with power, 
than it sets about imposing limitations to the exercise of its 
own authority. This is an invariable consequence wherever 
a real majority, as in the United States, and not merely a 
constructive majority, as in France during the revolution, 
have the supremacy ; and it is evident that it affords the most 
unequivocal test imaginable of the right and the fitness of the 
majority to rule. There is nothing surprising in this disposi- 
tion on the part of the popular power. The same fact is ob- 
servable in the conduct of individuals. There are few per- 
sons, given to the slightest reflection, who do not, on entering 
upon life, form for themselves a set of rules intended to act as 
restraints upon their own conduct, and to produce order and 
arrangement in the management of their private affairs. The 
merchant, the shopkeeper, the mechanic, all act in this way, 
and with fully as much judgment and discretion as men of 
the highest education. That these same persons, when col- 
lected into a body, should be suddenly bereft of a faculty of 
so much advantage in the pursuit of all their interests, would 
be difficult to explain upon any principles which belong to 
human nature. Self-interest, which prompts to its exercise in 
the first instance, will elicit it in the other also. The change 
which society undergoes when it has passed from a rude to a 
highly civilized state, does not imply that self-interest is ex- 
tinguished, but that it has become more enlightened, takes in 
a great number of objects of gratification, and thus tends 
constantly to bring about an agreement between the general 
interests and the interests of individuals. 



68 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book l 



It would doubtless be a great improvement upon all ordinary 
systems of government, and would conduce materially to a 
just and regular administration of public affairs, if we could 
introduce among communities some principle which resembled 
the faculty of reflection in individuals. We should then suc- 
ceed in imposing a control upon the passions, and remove the 
greatest obstacle in the way of free government. But when- 
ever we have advanced to that point where the majority pos- 
sess the supremacy, and yet consent to impose limitations 
upon their own authority, we may be sure that we have suc- 
ceeded, to a very great extent, in introducing that principle 
into the institutions. These limitations, or checks, may be 
divided into three classes : 1st. Where a restraint is imposed 
upon both the majority and minority. 2d. Where peculiar 
advantages are accorded to the minority ; and 3d. Where the 
authority of the community is so distributed as to give rise to 
a compound system of majorities and minorities. 

A written constitution is an example of the first class. It 
is an instrument which undertakes to form, upon reflection, a 
body of fundamental rules for the government of the com- 
munity, which shall be a convenient shelter against the tem- 
porary gusts of party feeling. Precautions are thus taken, on 
laying the foundation of the system, for securing the interests 
of every order of men, without reference to the fact whether 
they shall afterwards fall into the party of the majority, or of 
the minority. Every article of such an instrument is an 
authoritative declaration in behalf of general liberty. Opinions 
may vary, circumstances may change, rendering it desirable 
for the moment to depart from some of these fundamental rules ; 
but this great covenant stares them in the face, and, although 
it is plain, that it is physically possible to overleap the bounds 
which it has set, yet such is the power which the rule of right 
exercises upon the minds of men, when it is recognized as a gen- 
eral principle of action, that there is hardly any faction but what 
recoils from the attempt, or if it is ventured upon, is compelled 
to retrace its steps. And what is very remarkable, the diffi- 
culty increases in proportion as the electoral franchise is en- 
larged, and the number of active citizens augmented; which 
is the reverse of what would at first be supposed to be the 
ease. It is more difficult to maintain a good understanding 



CHAP. III.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



69 



among the members of a party which is very numerous, than 
of one which is small. Admitting that a majority of the ma- 
jority should be bent upon infringing some parts of the consti- 
tution, in order to attain a desired end, there are always a 
numerous body of individuals, of calm judgment and solid 
reflection, who, although every way disposed to make sacri- 
fices for the sake of keeping the party together, will never 
consent to sacrifice to a party what belongs to their country. 
These individuals stand aloof, or go over to the minority, 
which, becoming the majority, gains the ascendancy, and re- 
stores the balance of the constitution. 

During the last twenty-five years, we have witnessed repeated 
attempts, by the legislatures of several of the American States, 
to violate their respective constitutions, and sometimes even 
that of the federal government. In every instance the attempt 
has been abortive. So many of the people have abandoned 
the party in power, that it became utterly powerless in the 
accomplishment of its plans, and, after a time, the whole com- 
munity returned with renewed satisfaction to the wise and 
salutary maxims which had been handed down to them by 
their fathers. 

The constitution of Ohio was framed in 1802, when the popu- 
lation was a handful. It has now become a populous and 
powerful community; so that it has outgrown its constitution, 
as the man outgrows the clothes which he wore when a boy. 
Great inconvenience has been experienced in consequence of 
some of the provisions of that constitution; yet the people 
have submitted patiently to them, because, although a majority 
has constantly during the last twenty years been in favor of 
an alteration, yet the time has not yet arrived when the con- 
stitutional majority of two-thirds could be obtained. 

An example of the second class of checks, is when the 
minority have a proportional representation in the legislative 
body. The constitution of the executive and judiciary is such 
as to preclude the adoption of this plan, but the legislature is 
composed of so many members as very readily to admit of it. 
As representation takes the place of an actual deliberation by 
the people in person, when all parties would have an oppor- 
tunity to be heard, there is every reason why the same right 
should be recognized in elective government. But it is obvious 



70 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book i. 



the moment the door is opeued to a representation of the 
minority in the legislative hall, that a most important restraint 
is imposed upon the majority. Some persons cannot conceive 
the existence of a check, unless it has a coercive force. Bnt it 
is often of more efficacy, in consequence of being deprived of 
this quality. The minority, in its present position, are placed 
more upon their good behavior, exercise their wits more in 
finding out solid and substantial reasons for the opposition 
which they make; and from the single circumstance that 
they do not aspire to command, but only to persuade, are en- 
abled to exercise very great influence at those critical periods 
when extreme measures are about to be pursued, and when 
the minds of men have become greatly exasperated. A seat 
in the legislature is the most commanding position which can 
be occupied in the government. There is no calculating to 
what extent public abuses are prevented, and the laws modi- 
fied by the agency of a minority, although it may be impossible 
to lay one's finger upon the precise period when either was 
done. The instances are nevertheless without number. 

The division of the legislature into two chambers, is another 
instance of checks. Where two chambers exist, and the mem- 
bers hold their seats for different terms, the more popular 
branch may alone represent the opinions of a majority of the 
people at any given period, while the more permanent one 
will reflect opinions which once had the ascendancy, but which 
are perhaps passing away. Whether the arrangement is an 
advantageous one — whether it is wise to permit this conflict 
of living with dead opinions, is a problem not easy of solution. 
Nor is it necessary in this place to enter into an examination 
of it. But, if the system is of doubtful utility, it more strikingly 
displays the disposition of the majority, on laying the founda- 
tion of government, to concede great and decisive advantages 
to the minority. All the American States, except Vermont,* 
have adopted the plan. At an early period the people of Penn- 
sylvania established only one chamber, but very soon after 
added another. 

In those countries where one chamber is composed of an 
hereditary aristocracy, as in Great Britain, or of an aristocracy 
for life, as in France, Holland, and Belgium, the institution 

* In Vermont a second chamber has recently been created. 



CHAP. Ill ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



71 



is of an entirely different character. The creation of an upper 
house is not an advantage conceded to the minority of the 
society; but is a personal privilege conferred upon a very 
small body. No matter what opinions either the majority or 
minority may have, there stands this immovable bulwark, 
until the period has arrived when public sentiment has acquired 
so much power, as to control the conduct . of the highest 
authority in the state. 

In the federal government of the United States, the advant- 
age afforded to the minority is permanent. And this has 
arisen from the fact that the Union was formed by a conven- 
tion of the states, and not by the people of America, as consti- 
tuting one aggregate community. The relative exteut and 
population of these states are very different. But as they all 
held an independent rank prior to the formation of the consti- 
tution, it was impossible to do otherwise than to give all an 
equal representation in at least one branch of the legislature. 
This renders the structure of the government more complicated 
than that of the states. Neither a majority nor a minority of 
the general population are represented in the senate. The 
majority of the votes belong to a minority of the local popula- 
tion. But in that great confederacy of nations, over which 
international law now presides with nearly as much force as 
municipal law does over single states, large and small com- 
munities stand precisely upon the same footing, and are enti- 
tled to equal consideration. Moreover the difficulty is almost 
entirely obviated in America by the uncommonly skillful con- 
struction of the two systems of government. The federal and 
state interests are completely separated from each other, by 
which the most important part of the business of government 
is left to the exclusive management of the states. The veto 
of the executive may also operate sometimes as a check in 
favor of a minority. This power may be exercised in favor of 
a majority in the nation, against a majority in the legislature; 
or in favor of a minority in the nation, against a majority in 
the legislature; or, lastly, in favor, of a minority in the legis- 
lature against a majority in the same body ; without the means 
of knowing, at the precise time it is interposed, what is the 
actual state of public opinion among the people. Its operation 
is very different at different times, but the immediate effect is 



72 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[BOOK I. 



always to defeat the will of a majority in the legislature. The 
institution presents a problem of as difficult solution as the 
one just referred to. The difficulty consists in balancing the 
probabilities for a long series of years, in favor of the rectitude 
of the opinions of the executive, against the corresponding 
probabilities in favor of a majority of the legislature. 

The third class of checks, depending upon a more general 
-distribution of the power of the community, is where a system 
of primary and secondary governments is established: one 
intended to preside over those interests which are common to 
all the parts; the other to administer those which are exclu- 
sively local. The perfect form of confederate government 
affords a full illustration of the plan, although it is by no 
means necessary that the community should be a confederacy, 
in order to give rise to it. Every state of great extent would 
find it its interest to create a set of local jurisdiction to manage 
the local interests, which are necessarily beyond the reach of 
the central government. The scheme does not belong exclu- 
sively to a confederacy of states. But its utility is first sug- 
gested by the practice under that form of government. The 
local jurisdictions of departments and " arrondissements " in 
France, and the separate legislatures of Sweden and Norway, 
are examples, though imperfect ones, of the plan. The United 
States is the only country in which it has been carried to its 
full extent. And as the restriction upon the electoral frauchise 
is so very slight, it is easy to determine which party does in 
fact constitute the majority of the people. The creation of a 
national and state government has produced a double system 
of majorities and minorities. For instance, the minority in 
the national legislature may be a majority in several of the state 
legislatures, and vice versa. The interests to be administered 
are not the same in the two. They are therefore kept distinct. 
Under one homogeneous government, the party in the majority 
might rule over both. 

But in the United States the scheme is not confined to the 
federal government, but is pursued in the separate govern- 
ments of the states, each of which has created a system of local 
jurisdictions within itself, to manage the local interests. The 
county, aud township jurisdictions, each with its board of 
officers attached, are examples. 



CHAP. Ill ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



73 



It is unnecessary to refer to any further instances of the 
various checks and limitations which the majority constantly 
impose upon the exercise of their own authority. What has 
been said, contributes abundantly to fortify the position, that 
wherever a majority is capable of taking care of its own inter- 
ests, it will for that very reason be capable of presiding over 
the interests of the minority. In the new states which are 
coustantly springing into existence in America, and whose 
constitutions are based upon the principle of universal suffrage, 
we find that every precaution is taken in the outset, to impose 
limitations upon the power of the majority, wherever these are 
believed to be subservient to the general weal. 



74 



NATURE AND TENDENCY" 



[book I. 



CHAPTEK IV. 

CHARACTER AND OPERATIONS OF ELECTIVE GOVERNMENTS. 

If the extreme rigor of the rule, that the majority is entitled 
to govern, is thus tempered in practice, by the intervention of 
so many and such powerful restraints, imposed by the ma- 
jority, it may be affirmed that the country which denotes such 
a condition of society, or anything which makes a near approach 
to it, is ripe for the establishment of free institutions. The 
right of the majority to govern, depends simply npon its capa- 
city for self-government. 

But the inquisitive observer, fearful of the fate of free insti- 
tutions in proportion to the interest he takes in them, may 
inquire whether the unbounded freedom of thought and action, 
which they engender, is not absolutely incompatible with the 
firm authority which government should possess ; and whether 
they must not eventually perish, from the unceasing action of 
the very element in which they are destined to live. But it is 
that very freedom of thought and action, unbounded as it may 
be supposed to be, which gives being to public'opinion ; and 
without the influence of public opinion, society would be a 
mere waste. Although Europeans look with so much distrust 
upon the American commonwealth ; yet it is remarkable that 
everything which is valuable in their own societies, has been 
brought about by the communication of a greater degree of 
liberty to the people. So far from weakening the bond which 
holds society together, the effect has been to render it stronger. 
In Great Britain, and France, in Prussia, and Belgium, it is 
in exact proportion to the power which public opinion has ac- 
quired, that the administration of government has become 
mild and enlightened, and that a character of firmness and 
durability has been imparted to the institutions. It was at 
one time believed that public tranquility could not be even 
tolerably preserved, without the constant presence of a mili- 



CHAP. IV.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



75 



tary force. The people were terrified into submission to the 
government, rather than won over to obedience to the laws. 

It may be laid down as a maxim in politics, that the em- 
ployment of physical force is rendered necessary, by the 
absence, or deficiency, of moral force. If there is a happy 
distribution of the last through society, there will be less 
occasion to resort to the former. If, on the other hand, the 
distribution is very unequal, the discontent will be great 
because the amount ofliberty is small, and hence as a natural 
consequence, inordinate authority will be condensed in the 
hands of the government. Now, it is public opinion, above all 
other agents, which contributes to produce a just equalization 
of the moral power of the community ; and it is the freedom 
ot thought and action which gives birth to public opinion. It 
was on the first dawn of a public opinion in England, or rather 
I should say in Europe, that Pym, and Selden, Coke, and 
Hampden, Were roused to make such bold and intrepid exer- 
tions in behalf of popular freedom. Man feels strong when 
he is conscious that he is surrounded by a power, which rep- 
resents not his feelings merely, but the feelings of mankind. 
Abundant compensation is thus made for that state of feeble- 
ness and isolation in which individuals, who cherish noble 
ideas, would otherwise find themselves placed in the midst of 
society. 

It is not surprising that the freedom of the press has met 
with so much resistance in monarchial and aristocratical gov- 
ernments. The tribunal of public opinion, when fairly erected, 
is so formidable an adversary to the exercise of every species 
of arbitrary authority, that it invariably succeeds first in sub- 
duing the tone and temper of the public administration, and 
ultimately the form of the political institutions. Chateaubri- 
and declared to the ministers of Louis Philippe, " on the day 
you decree the liberty of the press, you die." And if this 
audacious speech was not verified, it is plainly because the 
elements of public opinion are now everywhere visible through- 
out France. 

In a country where a fixed aristocracy exists, some men are 
necessarily endowed with a much larger share of influence 
than others. A body of nobility and gentry have sometimes 
possessed more weight than all the rest of the community. 



76 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book l 



This unequal distribution of power is a great hindrance to the 
formation of a public opinion which shall rule over all ; but it 
is highly favorable to the creation of a particular or sectarian 
opinion within the class itself. When, however, the dispersion 
of knowledge and property has elevated that multitude of men 
who occupied the inferior ranks of society, public opinion rises 
up, and threatens to beat down the narrow and exclusive 
opinions which before existed. The array of physical force, 
which was before necessary, sometimes to quell insubordina- 
tion among the masses, sometimes to curb the turbulence of 
the nobles, and at others to restrain the usurpations of the 
prince, gradually disappears. All orders of men begin to find 
their true relative position in society, and public order and 
tranquility are preserved with remarkable regularity. From 
whence it is very easy to understand why it is, that a just 
distribution of the moral power of the community, supercedes, 
to so great an extent, the use of mere physical force. The old 
ranks may continue to stand, but they will stand like broken 
and defaced columns amid the new structure which is reared 
around them. 

One striking property of free institutions is, that they pre- 
sent fewer subjects of contention between the government and 
the people, than any other scheme of civil polity. I have 
already pointed to two characteristic features of a democratic 
republic: a written constitution, and the establishment of 
local jurisdictions, contrivances of great wisdom and utility. 
For by the first, the principal controversies which have shaken 
other communities are struck out of being ; and by the last, a 
very large proportion of what may be described as the secon- 
dary interests of society are withdrawn from the arena ot 
national contention, and are deposited with domestic govern- 
ments, by which they will be managed in the most skillful and 
unobtrusive manner possible. Under such a system men are 
able to find very few subjects to quarrel about ; and even if 
government has less ability to resist encroachments, there is 
also infinitely less temptation and opportunity to assail its 
rightful authority. 

Not only however are the most dangerous controversies 
diminished; those which remain assume an entirely different 
character. They are unfit to be decided by force. The pre- 



CHAP. IV.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



77 



rogatives of an hereditary monarch are so incapable of exact 
limitation, that he may often attempt to push them to the 
uttermost ; or the strictly legitimate exercise of them may be 
productive of infinite mischief to society. The single power 
of declaring war may occasion the imposition of taxes insup- 
portably burtheusome to the community. The legislature may 
be a close body, in no way entitled to the appellatiou of rep- 
resentative of the people, and much more disposed to favor 
the projects of the prince, than to consult the solid welfare of 
the state. The questions which grow out of such a condition 
of things immediately suggest the idea of an appeal to force. 
Bat whether the legislature shall make internal improvements, 
charter banks, or encourage manufactures, however interesting 
and exciting they may be, are still questions which belong to 
a totally different sphere. They could not ever grow up in 
any other society than one which had been trained to the arts 
of peace, and where men had been habitually given to reflec- 
tion. Such questions recommend themselves to the under- 
standing alone, and it will be an exceedingly rare occurrence 
if one drop of blood is ever shed in deciding them. 

This explains why it is that in modern societies men are so 
much addicted to reflection. It is not because they are by 
nature superior to the men of former times. It is simply iu 
consequence of the independent condition to which they have 
risen. The cares and anxieties of life are multiplied even 
more than its enjoyments. A vastly greater proportion of the 
people than at any former period are engaged in industrial 
pursuits. These demaud the constant exercise of judgment, 
prudence and discretion, and being accustomed to calculate 
the consequences of their actions on a small scale, they are 
enabled to transfer the same habit to a larger theater of 
action, and thus to render the exercise of their political prin- 
ciples not merely harmless, but essntially beneficial to the 
community. At one time no one could practice a trade in a 
city unless he belonged to the guild : and hardly any one out 
of the ranks of the nobility and clergy was the proprietor of 
land. There was no school for reflection among the people, 
because there was no opportunity for its application, either in 
the walks of private or public life. It follows that in a demo- 
cratic republic, where there is a more equal distribution of 



78 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book i. 



property, and where industry, whether in town or country, is 
unfettered, the mass of the population must be more distin- 
guished for reflection than anywhere else. Thus, in that form 
of government where this invaluable quality is most in demand 
it is freely supplied, and where it is least wanted it is spar- 
ingly produced. 

If it were possible so to construct government as invariably 
to connect the interests of individuals with those of the pub- 
lic, we should form a system which would bid fair to endure 
forever. I speak now of the interests of individuals, as seen 
and understood by themselves ; for the real interests of private 
persons never can be inconsistent with the general weal. Now 
although it is impossible to realize this idea, in consequence 
of the great diversity in the faculties and propensities of dif- 
ferent men, and the different manner in which these are com- 
bined in individuals; yet experience demonstrates that it is 
easy to carry it a great deal further than was once believed 
practicable. Philosophers who have sketched ideal plans of a 
republic, have failed, not so much because they have placed 
too high an estimate on human nature, as because they have 
not allowed room for the operation of some very homely 
qualities, out of which spring what we term patriotism and 
public spirit. If what makes the artificial forms of govern- 
ment so dear to the select few who participate in their admin- 
istration, is that their whole interests are wrapped up in the 
preservation of them, there seems to be no reason why we 
may not imitate the scheme on a still larger scale, and cause 
the great body of the people to be deeply interested in up- 
holding free institutions. There is no necessity for imagin- 
ing the existence of any higher qualities than before, in order 
to produce this effect. For admitting that we cannot render 
the motives of human conduct more general in the one case 
than in the other, yet by giving to them an infinitely wider 
scope in the last instance, we found ourselves upon the same 
principle of interest, and thus communicate both more free- 
dom, and more prosperity, to a greater number of people. If 
the superstition inspired by the artificial form of government 
is a prodigious support to their authority, there is a very 
similar but a still stronger feeling at work among the people 
who live under free government. They are alive to every 



CHAP. IV. ] 



OF FKEE INSTITUTIONS. 



79 



attempt to impair it, not merely because they believe their 
institutions to be the best, but because they are the workman- 
ship of their own hands. 

In whatever light we may cast the subject, it seems evident 
that representative government is the only one which is fitted 
to fulfill all the great ends for which society was established. 
Not onl^ is the general condition of the population greatly 
elevated, so as to render the care of its interests the chief aim 
of government, but a multitude of persons are actually em- 
ployed in the public administration. Public magistrates of 
various kinds, periodically rising from the people and return- 
ing to the people, are dispersed over the whole country. The 
sentinels of liberty are so thickly planted as to keep perpetual 
watch, and the complicated and wide spread machinery of the 
government, makes it an affair of great difficulty to break it 
up, or to take it to pieces. In the artificial governments, the 
handful of men who rule over public affairs are staked to the 
preservation of power; in a republic, the great body of the 
people are heartily interested in the maintenance of freedom. 

In the event of any great convulsion, occasioned by foreign 
war, or intestine commotion, the advantage is greatly on the 
side of popular government. Free institutions so thoroughly 
penetrate with their influence every part of the community, 
that although it may be possible to shake the government, the 
question will still arise, can you shake the society. In war, 
there is a distinction between conquering the government, and 
conquering the people; and a similar distinction is applicable 
in this instance. In a monarchy, or aristocracy, the overthrow 
of the government by foreign or civil war has sometimes 
nearly obliterated the traces of civilization. In a republic, 
where the great body of the people are fairly brought within 
the pale of civilization, such a disaster can never occur. Such 
a people feel deeper concern for their institutions, than the 
people of other countries, and yet they are not so completely 
dependent upon every vicissitude which may befall the gov- 
ernment. 

There is another advantage which free institutions possess. 
They lay the foundation for a great body of experience. It is 
of the highest importance that societies, as well as individuals, 
should be placed in a situation which enables them to make 



80 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[ BOOK I. 



actual experiment of the utility of those diversified laws 
which the wants of the community render necessary. In 
hereditary government, the machinery is so delicate, that this 
can seldom be hazarded without endangering the whole fab- 
ric. I do not now speak of that bastard sort of experiment — 
the fruit of vain and fanciful theories — but of that which 
founds itself upon an intimate acquaintance with everything 
which appertains to the substantial interests of the commu- 
nity. As experience in its most comprehensive signification, 
including observation, is the foundation of our knowledge ; as 
all science, in short, is nothing but the condensation of human 
experience, there seems every reason why we should be able 
to avail ourselves of it, in what concerns the positive interests 
of society, as well as in what relates to matters of more 
curious inquiry. The most gifted understanding, when rely- 
ing upon its own resources merely, will forever be too imper- 
fect to grasp all the conditions which affect the determination 
of any given enactment. As the whole groundwork of the 
institution is different in a republic, from what it is in any 
other form of government, the quantity of experience which 
is supplied is correspondingly large. For we then have a 
people in the genuine acceptation of the term. The laws, and 
the whole course of the public administration, take an en- 
tirely new direction. War, negotiation, and finance no longer 
absorb the whole attention of statesmen. Public affairs have 
then a different meaning affixed to them. The legislature 
embraces a vast scope of practical interests which, being more 
level to the capacities of all, call into requisition a great 
amount of popular talent; and as they who make the laws 
are the very persons who will derive advantage, or suffer in- 
convenience, from them, a most instructive school of experi- 
ence is established, in which all are compelled to learn some- 
thing. 

I observe that more laws have been passed by the British 
Parliament in the last forty years, than in the three preceding 
centuries; that is, the laws have multiplied in proportion as 
the real business transactions of society have increased ; and 
these have been increased because so large an amount of the 
population have been raised to a higher condition than for- 
merly. A similar change is very perceptible in France. But 



CHAP. IV. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



81 



on the whole, I should say, that the democratic element, al- 
though it appears in bolder relief in France than in Great 
Britian, was not making so great and so sure advances in the 
former, as in the latterc ountry. 

One of the most remarkable features of American society, 
is the facility with which changes are made in fundamental 
laws, wherever experience has shown that there is an infirm- 
ity in some part of the system. A convention in any one of 
the American states, assembled for the purpose of makiug 
alterations in its constitution, creates no noise or confusion. 
All the deliberations are conducted to a close with the same 
regularity as the proceedings of an ordinary legislative body. 
At an early period there was a remarkable sensitiveness on 
this subject. Constitutions, it was said by those who had not 
entirely escaped from the European forms of thought, were 
sacred things; and once ordained should never again be 
touched. As if every institution did not acquire sacredness 
by being perfected and better adapted to its original design. 

A great revolution was effected in the structure of society, 
when the inferior classes lost their dependence upon the 
higher; when the relations of patron, and client, of lord, and 
vassal, ceased. A new relation immediately sprung up. In- 
stead of the dependence being all on one side, the two orders 
became mutually dependent on each other. Society began to 
assume the character of a great partnership among the mem- 
bers, instead of that of a series of ascending links in a chain, 
one end of which was fastened to the throne. From that 
period, the people have been constantly gaining in intelli- 
gence and power : so that it is doubtful whether, in more than 
one European state, if the laws of primogeniture and entail 
had been abolished a century ago, society would not be com- 
pletely prepared for the introduction of the elective principles 
into every department of the government. There is every 
reason to believe that those laws will sooner or later give way. 
The force of habit among a whole people is as strong as it is 
in individuals. It frequently survives the existence of the 
causes which originally induced it, but it cannot survive them 
forever, when there are so many counter agents unceasingly 
in operation. 

Two apparently opposite effects are produced by that altera- 
6 



82 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[ BOOK I. 



tion in the structure of society which I have described. Gov- 
ernments are rendered stronger, and yet, both the absolute 
and the relative power of the people is augmented. As it 
becomes more and more necessary to take counsel of public 
opinion, with regard to every important measure, it might be 
supposed that goverment had lost strength. But inasmuch 
as a man, mutilated in one part, is not able to exert so much 
general power as a man who is perfect in all his members, so 
as a government which relies upon the entire strength of so- 
ciety, must necessarily be more efficient in proportion as that 
strength is developed. In all the European governments, in 
which a legislative body exists, however inadequately it may 
represent popular opinion, there is notwithstanding an in- 
creasing anxiety to consult popular interests. Any important 
change in language, denotes a corresponding change in the 
ideas of the age. And the comparative disuse, in some parts 
of Europe, of the term subjects, and the substitution of the 
term citizens, or people, is an unequivocal indication that new 
things have come to pass. Mr. Eox was the first statesman 
who accustomed the English ear to this mode of speech. He 
kuew well, that the way to fasten an impression upon the 
mind, was to give it a palpable form — to incorporate it into 
the dialect of the country. The crowned heads of Europe do 
not venture to sport with the lives and property of the peo- 
ple as formerly, simply because the people have acquired a 
weight in the political system which enables them to exercise 
a powerful, though it may be an indirect control over all pub 
lie afiairs. 

There are two properties inseparable from every well con- 
stituted government: the one a capacity to receive impres- 
sions from public opinion, the other a power of reacting upon 
society. There is no contradiction between the two things. 
On the contrary, the last is the natural consequence of the 
first. The use of public opinion is to inspire government with 
confidence, fortitude, and resolution, whenever public affairs 
are well conducted ; and to impress it with shame, distrust, and 
fear, whenever the contrary is the case. Two forces act iu 
different directions, and yet both tend to the same result : the 
causing public men to exercise a more legitimate, and there- 
fore a more effective influence thau they could otherwise do. 



CHAP. IV.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



83 



The more government reposes on public opinion, the more 
susceptible it is of being acted upon ; and yet, the greater is 
the facility it acquires of acting upon the community in diffL 
cult emergencies. I do not now suppose the case of general 
resistance to its authority ; for the structure of representative 
government is such as to render it a guarantee against such a 
contingency. But I speak of those partial insurrections 
against the laws, originating in local discontents, and to 
which the best regulated society will be occasionally subject. 
European writers on public law, with nearly one accord, ad- 
mit the right of resistance on the part of the people, when- 
ever government has clearly and flagrantly transcended its 
authority; and very properly so, for where the institutions 
contain no provision for displacing men who have bid defiance 
to all law, and who have evinced a settled determination to 
lender the public interests subordinate to their schemes of 
self aggrandizement, there is no other alternative but that 
of resistance. It constitutes an excepted case; but a case 
consecrated by necessity, by right, by the eternal laws of 
God and man. The deposition of Napoleon, and Charles X. 
in France; of Charles I. and James II. in England, stand 
upon this clear and undisputed principle. That of Louis XVI 
may admit of some hesitation, and yet it is exceedingly doubt- 
ful whether the scheme of constitutional or limited monarchy 
could have been achieved without it. 

But in elective government, the case cannot occur. The 
powers of all public functionaries are not only very limited, 
but they are themselves quietly removed before they have had 
an opportunity to commit any great mischief. And I cannot 
help thinking that the reason why America has been less sub- 
ject to even partial insurrections than any other country, is 
owing to this circumstance. The power which is reposed with 
the government is conferred by all the parts equally ; and the 
notion that the will of the majority is entitled to command, 
is so indelibly impressed upon both people and rulers, that 
wherever a conflict occurs between the laws which that major- 
ity have ordained, and any particular section of the popula- 
tion, a degree of confidence, energy and alacrity is infused 
into all public men, which enables them to triumph speedily 



84 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I, 



over all opposition, and that without depending to any degree 
upon the instrumentality of a standing army. 

A democratic republic will then possess the two properties 
I have mentioned, in greater perfection than any other form 
of government. It will possess a capacity of receiving im- 
pressions from without, because it is the creature of the pub- 
lic will; it will have the power of reacting upon society, not 
only because* it will be powerfully supported by public opinion, 
but because the disturbances which will occur can never in 
the nature of thiugs be more than local. Twenty times more 
blood was shed iu Paris, on the memorable three days which 
closed the reign of Charles X. than in all the insurrections 
which have occurred in the United States since the foundation 
of the government. 

It is the time now to direct the attention of the reader to a 
very material distinction, already hinted at, between a repre- 
sentative republic and the artificial forms of government. In 
the first the political authority of the community is divided 
into three classes ; the powers which are exercised by the gov- 
ernment, those exercised by the people, and those reserved 
to the people. In pure monarchy, and aristocracy, there is 
but one class. The whole power is centered in the govern- 
ment. In the United States, it is common to make two classes 
only; the second is left out. All the active power of the com- 
munity is supposed to be conferred upon the government ; 
and all its latent power to be lodged with the people; liable 
to be roused to activity whenever a convention is assembled 
for the purpose of forming a new constitution. But this is a 
very imperfect view of the structure of the American govern- 
ment. The powers actually exercised by the people are numer- 
ous, and of great importance. I have no reference now to the 
distribution of authority between the federal and state gov- 
ernments. That does in reality give rise to a fourth class, 
which it is not now necessary to notice. 

First, if we could consider the various persons who are 
chosen to perform the duties of the great number of offices 
which exist in representative government, as naked instru- 
ments, mere conduit pipes, to convey the opinions, and to give 
an audible expression to the interests, of the people, the truth 
•of the observation would be clear. The conduct of the repre- 



CHAP. IV.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



8-5 



sentative would then be invariably determined by the will of 
his constituents. It might even be doubtful, whether the lat- 
ter did not exercise all political power not reserved. If, on 
the other hand, there is a considerable approach to that scheme, 
or arrangement, the truth of the proposition will be still more 
manifest. The active power of the community will be parti- 
tioned between the government and the people. The arm is 
the mere servant of the will. If an individual had no imme- 
diate power in moving it, but was able to exercise an interme- 
diate control, which might be relied upon as certain, in the 
great majority of instances, it would still be correct to say, 
that he exercised an important agency in determining its 
movements. 

The physician who is employed to cure disease, or the law- 
yer who is engaged to prosecute a suit, are the agents in either 
case of those who apply to them. Yet the connection is not 
as strict, as between the elector and the representative ; be- 
cause in the case of the physician and lawyer, the skill de- 
manded of them depends upon a body of scientific knowledge, 
an acquaintance with which it is impossible for those who have 
not made it a special study. More strictly is he denominated 
an agent, who is selected to transact the private business of 
an individual. And although this trust will require judgment, 
sagacity, and industry; that is, the exercise of qualities which 
belong properly to the agent, yet his conduct, so far as con- 
cerns the substantial interests of the principal, will, in ninety- 
nine cases out of a hundred, be determined by the last. 

There is this difference, however, between the two cases; 
that where one man employs another to transact his private 
affairs, there is a singleness, an unity of purpose, which it is 
easy to impress upon the agent, but which cannot be exactly 
imitated, where, instead of one agent, there are hundreds, and 
instead of one principal, there are thousands. The distinction 
is one of great consequence, and yet it does not detract from 
the truth of the observation, that the active political power 
which exists in a republic, is partitioned between the public 
officers and their constituents. But the distinction points to 
a very important end which representative governments is 
adapted to accomplish. 

For, as in order to execute the joint will of a very numerous 



8G 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



society, it is indispensable that agents should be employed ; 
these agents, whose number is very small when compared 
with the whole population, act as convenient instruments for 
separating the more prominent interests of society, from those 
which are of less moment. Their commanding position natur- 
ally leads them, amid the great variety of discordant opinions 
which are afloat, even in a small section of the country, to dis- 
tinguish between those which are of vital and general impor- 
tance, and those which are the offspring of temporary prejudices 
and local feelings. In this way, the multifarious business of 
an extensive community is brought under some systematic 
rules, and a character of oneness, and uniformity is empressed 
upon the movements of the government. 

But there are instances in which the relation of principal 
and agent exists in its utmost strictness. The opinions and 
views which the representative is appointed to carry out, are 
not at all of the same kind. Some are very complex: that is, 
they require a great many acts to be done, and a variety of 
uuforseen circumstances to be taken into account; and there 
are others, pointing to a single end, which cannot be mistaken. 
In the last, the will of the constituent may be impressed upon 
the deputy, as completely as the stamp impresses its image 
upon wax. 

The election of president of the United States is a remark- 
able example ol this. On that occasion, a greater number of 
electors than ever was known in Christendom are assembled, 
and although an intermediate body is chosen by them, for the 
purpose of making the election, yet those secoudary electors 
invariably vote for the person who has been designated for 
the office by the primary electors. The result is reduced to 
absolute certainty, before the colleges of electors meet. Thus 
in a case where the electors are most numerous, and where it 
was supposed impossible to produce anything like harmony of 
opinion, the agreement is most complete. And what is of stili 
more importance, where the public officer is elected to preside 
over the whole population, and to embrace the greatest diver- 
sity of views, a character of unity is most effectually impressed 
upon him. As the extent of country, and the great number 
of the electors, remove him to a great distance from the peo- 
ple, and tend to weaken his responsibility, it is of great con- 



CHAP. IV.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



87 



sequence to exhibit before bis eyes an example of the facility 
with which public sentiment can be united to all leading pub- 
lic measures, and of the equal facility with which he can either 
be made, or unmade. 

In order to determine, with something like exactness, the 
closeness of the relation which exists between the representa- 
tive and the constituent, where the duties to be performed in- 
volve a multitude of acts, the most satisfactory method would 
be to ascertain what proportion of the laws enacted have 
afterwards been repealed ; distinguishing between those cases 
where the repeal has taken place, in consequence of the rep- 
resentatives having gone counter to the will of their constitu- 
ents, from those where it has been brought about by a change 
of opinion on the part of the people themselves. And I ap- 
prehend that cases falling under the first class would be found 
to be exceedingly rare. A repeal effected by a change in 
public sentiment is obviously an example of the strictness of 
the relation. 

It is common to talk of the powers of government, and the 
liberties of the people. But this is rather in analogy with the 
structure of the European communities, than in accordance 
with the genius of free institutions. The people of the United 
States do enjoy a very large share of liberty; but its charac- 
ter is such, as necessarily to endow them with a large amount 
of active power. Their power constitutes the guarantee of 
their liberties. When we consider, that until very recently, 
all Scotland contained no greater number of electors than an 
ordinary county in America; that the members of Parliament 
from the cities were deputed by self-constituted bodies, com- 
posed each of thirteen persons; that a majority of the mem- 
bers of Parliament are now elected by a minority of the whole 
number of electors ; that the throne, the aristocracy, and the 
ecclesiastical establishments exist, without any direct depend- 
ence upon the public will; that the right to bear arms, and 
the right of association are exceedingly restricted, we may 
form some idea of the importance of the distinction between 
popular power, and popular liberty. 

It is remarkable that the three great maxims on which re- 
publican government reposes, were recognized, and formally 
promulgated, by the Italian states of the middle ages : 



88 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



1st. That all authority exercised over the people originates 
with the people. 

2cl. That all public trusts should return periodically into 
the hands of the people. 

3d. That all public functionaries are responsible to the 
people for their fidelity in office. 

And yet it would be a great mistake to suppose that the 
people of these states, from the highest to the lowest, had any 
more idea of free institutions, than the philosophers of their 
day had of the theory of the terrestrial motions. We might 
with as much propriety rob Hervey of the credit of discover- 
ing the circulation of the blood, and attribute it to physicians 
in the time of Cicero. For when we inquire who the people 
(the inseparable condition of the three maxims) were, we find 
that they were a mere handful of the population. In the 
Florentine state, the best modeled of those republics, with a 
population of more than a million, the electors never amounted 
to more than twenty-four hundred; sometimes to a much less 
number. And the cruelties practised by those invested with 
authority, were not excelled in any of the monarchical gov- 
ernments of even that day. 

The artificial forms of government, by the oppression, and 
inequalities of one sort or another, to which they give rise, 
lacerate the mind, sour the temper, and goad to revenge. 
There is no escape from the ills they inflict. They are of 
yesterday, to-day, and forever. Free institutions introduce 
heart burnings enough into society. But these only constitute 
a state of discipline, by which men are rendered more wise, 
more prudent, and Ynore just, than they would otherwise be. 
A vast field is left open to individual liberty, so that the 
mind, instead of being deprived of its elasticity and vigor, is 
incessantly braced to fresh exertions, in order to turn all the 
difficulties of life to the best account. 



CHAP. V.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



89 



CHAPTER V. 

THE PRINCIPLE OF EQUALITY — TO WHAT EXTENT CAN IT 

BE CARRIED. 

It was a great imperfection attending society before the 
invention of printing, that there was no means by which 
human experience could be made thoroughly available at a 
subsequent period, or in remote countries. It is not only im- 
portant that knowledge should be diffused among the men of 
the present day; it is also important that their successes and 
miscarriages should be recorded and appreciated by those who 
come after them, and by those who are separated from each 
other by the greatest distances. Printing has remedied this 
imperfection. It not only extends information ; it extends the 
bounds of human experience; since this is very properly un- 
derstood to include not merely what is personal to the indi- 
vidual, but whatever can be distinctly realized as matter of 
fact. Mere speculation does not move the great mass of man- 
kind ; but example, sympathy, imitation, all have a wonderful 
influence in molding their dispositions and conduct. Those 
who live apart from each other are now initiated into the form 
of society, the habits of thinking, and acting, and the actual 
working of the institutions which prevail among each. They 
are enabled to distinguish what is practicable, from what is 
proposed as a mere plausible theory ; and, as very nearly the 
same feelings beat in the bosom of all men, every important 
amelioration of the condition of our race in one country, is 
regarded as a body of experience, which may be made more 
or less available in all others. 

This enlargement of the bounds of human experience, so as 
to take in what is transacted in distant countries, as well as 
what is acted on the spot, is exemplified in the case of America. 
The political institutions of the United States may be described 
as the greatest experiment which has ever been made upon 
human nature. Their influence upon the European mind has 



90 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



already been immense. It is natural, therefore, that they 
should afford matter for deep contemplation, aud that they 
should excite interest wherever they are known. 

No one has even the right to indulge in fanciful and vision- 
ary speculations as to the form into which the institutions of 
society may be cast. But where our researches are pursued 
with care ; where they are bounded and limited on all sides 
by a long and instructive experience, they may be rendered 
highly instrumental in shedding light upon the two great 
problems in politics: what aught, and what may be made to 
be. It is not necessary that intelligence should be diffused in 
exactly equal proportions, among all the individuals compo- 
sing a community, in order to found free institutions. It is 
true, knowledge is power, in politics as well as in private life, 
and may be made the instrument of detriment as well as of 
benefit. And if the interests of the great bulk of the popula- 
tion are delivered over to the less numerous body, who consist 
of the enlightened, it may seem difficult to escape from the 
conclusion, that a species of moral servitude must be estab- 
lished, let us adopt what form of government we please. Why 
it is not necessary, therefore, that all the members who com-- 
pose a democratic community should be raised equally high 
in the scale of intelligence, and what is the extent to which 
intelligence should and may be actually pushed, are necessa- 
rily inquiries of great interest and importance. 

In a commonwealth where the structure of society is such 
as to give rise to an uniformity of interests among the popu- 
lation, or to any thing approaching to it, it will, to a great 
extent, supersede the necessity of an equal distribution of 
knowledge. There may be the greatest diversity of knowledge 
amid the greatest sameness of interests, and without occasion- 
ing the least interruption to it. Knowledge is the instrument 
by which the interests of men are managed ; but it is not it- 
self, at least in its highest degree, one of those interests. And 
if in a state where the elective principle prevails, this settled 
uniformity of interests is the result of causes which are in- 
herent in the framework of society, public men will be dis- 
abled from interfering with the interests of others, without 
dealing wantonly with their own. The same laws which gov- 
ern the ruled, govern also the rulers. The ability to act is 



CHAP. V.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



91 



restrained and limited by the principle of self interest. And 
the administration of public affairs is obliged to take a direc- 
tion conformable to the public welfare, because the general 
welfare and private interests meet and terminate at the same 
point. 

But this approach to an identity of interests among the 
whole community, does diffuse knowledge to precisely the 
extent which is wanted: 1st. Because it renders the inter- 
course of all classes more thorough and easy. 2d. Because it 
presupposes a tolerably equal distribution of property, and 
the diffusion of knowledge is inseparable from that of proper- 
ty. Not that the elevated attainments of the intellectual class 
will become tbe common property of the whole people, for 
that can never be; but that species of knowledge which has 
to do with the material interests of this world, will insinuate 
itself into the minds of all. Our acquaintance with any sub- 
ject is in proportion to the concentration of the attention upon 
it; and the great, bulk of the population, by having their at- 
tention constantly fixed upon that sphere of ideas which 
incloses all their substantial interests, may be trained to a 
degree of knowledge which will be more effectual for the pur- 
poses of society than the greatest learning, and the profound- 
est attainments. What is lost in variety and comprehensive- 
ness, will be more than made up by the practicable and 
serviceable character of the knowledge actually acquired. 

If in France, before the revolution, four-fifths of the landed 
property of the kingdom was engrossed by the nobility and 
clergy; and if in the United States there is no such artificial 
monopoly, but the division of the soil has followed the natural 
direction which private enterprise and industry gave to it ; the 
great difference in the structure of society in the two countries 
is sufficiently explained. All the moral causes, which in the 
last country now contribute to perpetuate the existing state 
of society, may be fairly deduced from this simple arrange- 
ment in the beginning. The principle of equality has thus 
found a natural support in America. It has not been the 
creature of the laws. These assist in upholding it, by giving 
it a visible activity in public life ; but both it and the laws 
are the offspring of circumstances, which no legislature could 
have had power to alter. 



92 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



Two inquiries of exceeding interest now present themselves : 
1st. To what extent is political equality dependent upon the 
natural or civil equality of men ; and to what extent can the 
last he pushed. 2d. If political equality is itself the result 
of causes which are peculiar to America, and these causes 
should cease to act, or act with less force at a future period ; 
may not the political institutions, and the form of government, 
undergo in the progress of time, an entire revolution. Each 
of the propositions: the laws secure political equality; and 
the laws have sprung from a given state of society ; are clear 
enough. But it is important that our speculations should be 
built upon something more than a barren generality ; that, so 
addressing ourselves to the reason of mankind, we may em- 
ploy our own reason in throwing out hints for their medita- 
tion. 

The distribution of property in any community, will depend 
in some degree upon the amount of the population. In a 
state which is densely peopled, there will probably be a very 
large class of rich, and a still more numerous class of poor. 
Not that this proportion may not exist, where the population 
is thin. For it was undoubtedly the same, or even greater in 
the European states, five hundred years ago, than it is at 
present, although the population has more than trebled in 
that time. But in the one case, there is at least a physical 
possibility of rectifying the proportion, which does not exist 
in the other. Where there are large tracts of uncultivated 
land, human ingenuity and industry, with a very slight assist- 
ance from the laws, may succeed in placing private fortune 
more upon a level. But where the soil has been appropriated 
for centuries, the inequality which shows itself, after a long 
period cf commercial and agricultural activity, must be as- 
cribed in part to that very ingenuity and industry, and in great 
part also, to the political institutions themselves. 

But within certain limits, an increase of population may be 
highly favorable to the distribution of property. Capital and 
labor are augmented by it ; and the supply of both affords 
the means of breaking up large estates into smaller parcels* 
It is only when the population becomes very dense, that on 
the one hand capital accumulates to such a degree as to create 



CHAP. V.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



93 



a large class of rich ; and that on the other, labor becomes 
superabundant, which gives rise to a still larger class of poor. 

There are several causes which tend to counteract the in- 
crease of population, when it has reached a certain degree of 
density. The mortality becomes greater, the births fewer, and 
the average age of marriage higher. But these changes do 
not all of them take place, with anything like the regularity 
which might be expected. For instance, it appears to be cer- 
tain that the mortality in Great Britain is much less than it 
has been at any preceding period : that it is less than it was 
when the population was only one-half what it is now. Lord 
Brougham computes it at 1.58; Mr. Malthus at 1 51 ; while the 
census of 1839, taken since, and the only accurate register 
which has ever been made, finds it to be 1.45. The two first 
would, have been an enormously low proportion. The last is 
low, and indicates a less mortality than in any country which 
ever existed, and containing an equally dense population. 
Although the population has increased greatly within the last 
fifty years, yet the general standard of comfort throughout 
the island has improved in a still higher proportion. And 
although it cannot be true, as has been conjecturally estima- 
ted, that the average age of death, or the expectation of life 
at birth, has mounted up from sixteen to thirty-three years, 
it is plain that it must be greatly higher than it was sixty or 
seventy years ago. 

But increase the population a few millions more, and the mor 
tality would then tell in a greatly increased ratio. Whatever 
may be the increase, however, and in spite of ail the influences 
which have hitherto been brought to bear upon society, there 
is a tendency in every civilized community, to such an augmen- 
tation of the population as is inconsistent with anything like 
an equal distribution of property. Even the equal parti bility 
of inheritances only partially corrects the evil. Primogeni- 
ture was unknown in the Grecian or Roman commonwealths. 
In France it never prevailed universally. And in Spain equal 
partibility was always the rule, and primogeniture the excep- 
tion. Yet in all these states there existed extreme inequality 
in private fortunes. The laws, the character ot the govern- 
ment, may do much toward either promoting, or preventing 
the disparity of estates. And it is one reason why free institu- 



91 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



tions are preferable to any other, that they contribute to pro- 
duce this last effect. But the inquiry of greatest moment is, 
whether there are any laws of our nature which, indepen- 
dently of the political institutions, or with every assistance 
which they may legitimately afford, can have power to estab- 
lish and maintain anything approaching to an equality of pri- 
vate fortunes. It seems natural to suppose, that when we are 
in possession of an advantage up to a certain degree, that it 
may be pushed on to a still higher degree ; and so on indefi- 
nitely; and that cannot be an impossible state of society, 
which only consists in the addition to actually existing facts — 
of facts of the same kind. And this would undoubtedly be a 
correct mode of reasoning, if the new facts to be added did 
not depend upon the voluntary action of a vast multitude of 
persons, among whom there exists the greatest diversity of 
dispositions. 

In tracing the generality of individuals through life, and 
observing how they conduct themselves, and the vehement 
struggle to acquire property, it is remarkable how little differ- 
ence we can discover between the capacities of those who suc- 
ceed, and of those who fail. Some move forward with amaz- 
ing velocity, to the end they have in view, and heap riches 
upon riches ; some lag behind, and are only able, through the 
whole of life, to obtain a comfortable subsistance ; while others 
continue in a state of painful destitution, from the beginning 
to the end of their career. And yet but for the result, which, 
to ordinary observation, seems to set the stamp of superiority 
upon some, we should not be able, in the majority of instances, 
to perceive any adequate reason for so striking a difference. 
{So far as the faculties of those individuals, either natural or 
acquired, are concerned, there seems to be no very material 
difference. But that there must be some difference, in that 
undeflnable quality which we term the disposition, is clear; 
otherwise the consequences would not follow. We know too 
little of the individual mau, to be able to handle, with any- 
thing like accuracy and discrimination, the secret springs which 
actuate human conduct. A fine writer has remarked of the 
character of the Emperor Napoleon, that it has presented a 
problem to be studied. But in truth, the character of almost 
all the individuals we meet with, however obscure they may 



CHAP. V.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



95 



be, and however limited their faculties, presents very nearly 
the same problem. Whoever was able to unravel the mind of 
the least of these, would be able to decipher that of Napoleon 
at a glance. 

Some men are roused and quickened by adversity, while the 
faculties of others are clouded, and overwhelmed by it. Some 
are strengthed by prosperity ; others are blinded and led 
astray by it. Aud as there is an endless variety in the work- 
ing of these causes, arising from inconceivably small differ- 
ences of temperament, and the perpetual interference of what 
is termed accident, their successes and miscarriages, will be 
marked by innumerable shades of difference, too secret, and 
too fine, for our analysis. It seems certain, however, that 
until we can master man's nature, it will be impossible to 
impress anything like an exact similarity of character upon 
individuals. Aud he who cannot take to pieces his own mind, 
must necessarily fall infinitely short of that task. The divi- 
sion of labor, which is introduced so extensively into every 
department of industry, is both a consequence and a cause of 
the inequality in the fortunes and condition of individuals. 
But if that were banished from society, not the ten-thousandth 
part of the comforts and enjoyments of life would exist for 
any one. To say every one should be his own builder, manu- 
facturer and cultivator ; to declare that each one should be 
tailor, shoemaker, cook, would be very nearly the same as 
saying, that there should be no houses, no decent and comfor- 
table clothing, and a very scanty supply of food. There would 
be nothing to set in motion that immense mass of industry 
which now affords employment and subsistence to the multi- 
tudes of men. The population would be gradually drawn 
within the narrow limits of a savage tribe ; the most opulent 
and flourishing community would be carried back to the prim- 
itive state of barbarism. The annihilation of industry as a 
system, would involve the annihilation of all moral and intel- 
lectual culture. 

At the same time, it is evident that the division of labor, 
which bestows such countless advantages upon society, can 
not exist without giving rise to very great inequality among 
individuals. It is only necessary to consider any of the most 
inconsiderable of the objects of mechanical skill, to be assured 



96 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



of this fact. The workman who is employed in the manufac- 
ture of knives, or pins, is condemned to an occupation which, 
turn the subject in whatever light we may, cannot possibly 
improve his fortune, or elevate his faculties, so as to place 
him on a level with the master manufacturer. Nor would it 
remedy the difficulty, to divide the profits of the last equally 
among all the workmen ; for even admitting that he would 
feel the same powerful stimulus as before, in the prosecution 
of his business, now that the disposition of his own property 
was violently interfered with ; and that the workmen would 
submit to the same patient and indefatigable industry, with- 
out which the plan must fail; this distribution would only tan- 
talize, without satisfying, the desires of any one. What would 
be a splendid income for one man, would, when divided among 
hundreds, be no sensible addition to their enjoyments. There 
must be some wise purpose intended in this constitution of 
society. It may be, that in a civilized community, this va- 
riety in the pursuits of individuals is absolutely necessary 
to maintain the mind in a sound and healthful condition ; or 
it may be, that employment and occupation, without regard to 
the variety of pursuts to which they lead, are indispensable 
to balance the mind, and to restrain the animal propensities 
within due bounds ; for without the division of labor, there 
would not only be little or no variety, but the occupations would 
nearly all cease to exist. At the same time, it is clear, that 
while some are engaged in the higher and more important part 
of the work, others must be engaged in the inferior, and subor- 
dinate branches. So that to maintain civilization at all, there 
must be inequality in the fortunes and condition of indi- 
viduals. There is no escape from our human condition, what- 
ever may be the shape into which the elements of society are 
thrown. 

If we suppose that the distribution of the incomes of capi- 
talists, would place so large a number ot the operatives in an 
improved condition, as to withdraw them from work, the sup- 
ply of labor would be diminished, wages would rise, there 
would be more leisure, greater opportunities. But the high 
wages would in a single generation, lead to an increase of the 
population, to a supply of the demand, and to a renewal of 
the old state of things. 



CHAP. V.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



07 



The distribution of property by law, even if it placed every 
one in comfortable circumstances, would paralyze the springs 
of industy. It would diminish the vigor and activity of those 
who had acquired much, and increase the sloth and inertness 
of those who had acquired nothing. The equal division of 
fortunes would apparently tend to an equality of enjoyments ; 
while an equality of industry and exertions, which is of far 
more consequence, would be overlooked. If all were placed 
in prosperous circumstances for one year, the next would wit- 
ness the decline of great numbers ; and in a few more there 
would be the same inequality as before. We would absurdly 
introduce equality for the purpose of bringing out inequality. 

It would seem that not only our own infirmties, but that 
the infirmities of those around us, are absolutely necessary to 
goad any one to exertion. They who propose the plan of dis- 
tribution, or, which is the same thing, to make the people work 
in common like so many galley slaves, forget that the true 
way of strengthening the public virtues is to nourish the pri- 
vate affections, and that to turn all our efforts exclusively in 
one direction, would be to eradicate some of the best qualities 
of human nature. That is the best, because it is the natural, 
arrangement of society, which gives fall play to the faculties 
of all orders of men. If it is beyond our power to control the 
private affections — if we cannot make men love other men's 
children as they do their own — it must be equally impossible 
to control the exertions which are the fruit of these affections. 
The instinct which leads men to become the center of a family, 
is as much a part of his constitution as that which leads him 
to society. To give an undue preponderance to one of these, 
would not be the application of a new regimen to his conduct; 
it would be a vain attempt to alter the laws which govern his 
nature. All the private affections, in reality, conspire to the 
general weal. They introduce into the moral world the great 
principle of the division of labor. More industry and sagacity 
are exerted — a greater amount of both public and private 
virtue is developed, than under any other government. To 
dislocate, therefore, any of the important springs of human 
conduct — to declare that one should have the mastery — would 
establish a state of society in which we should avail ourselves 
of only half the man. 
7 



98 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I 



If we could realize the views of Mr. Malthus, and introduce 
into a population which was threatening to become crowded 
the general prevalence of the check to early marriages, it 
would be followed by some very salutary consequences. But to 
carry it as far as is desirable, and so as to make it tell with a 
decisive and permanent influence upon society, might be at- 
tended with very many disadvantages. The idea is, that it 
would be an effectual way of elevating the condition of the 
masses, because it would keep down the numbers, and render 
the circumstances of the actual population more easy. Let us 
suppose then that the check had begun to operate in England 
about seventy years ago. Wages might now be so high as to 
cause every department of industry to languish. Euglish 
manufacturers would have been undersold in every foreign 
market. Other nations would have been in a coudition to 
supply the English people with every species of manufacture, 
and every article of food. But the last would be deprived of 
the means of purchasing from other nations, and the conse- 
quence is, that England may have beeu one of the poorest 
instead of the richest country in Europe. The more thin 
population which would now exist, would be in infinitely worse 
circumstances than at present. In Norway, the check to early 
marriages exists in greater force than anywhere else, and it is 
a poor country, and an abject population. 

I know nothing which would confer more salutary and last- 
ing benefits upon society, than to raise the general standard 
of comfort of the population; provided, it be done without 
producing effects which would counteract its operation. But 
to raise the standard of comfort in any European community 
as high as every lover of humanity would desire, would be the 
same as to raise wages so high as to enable every one to main- 
tain his family in comfort, and to give them an education. 
And the consequences would be the same as before. The 
country would be undersold in every article of production ; 
every branch of industry would decline, until a foreign popula- 
tion poured in, to receive lower wages, when the standard of 
comfort would be again reduced. The plan would undoubt- 
edly succeed if we could introduce it alike into all countries. 
But if it has entirely failed in any one, except to be taken 
notice of by way of comparison with the condition of some 



CHAP. V ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



99 



others, it would require the will of Omnipotence to accom- 
plish it. 

All human exertions to better the social organization must 
necessarily be bounded within certain limits. Something must 
be taken for granted, as the elements of all our reasoning in 
politics as well as in other sciences. We cannot be permitted 
to construct ideas, which a fertile imagination has suggested, 
and which only approach toward being verified in part, be- 
cause they cannot be verified universally. 

Let us suppose that all those who have succeeded in life, 
and who are placed in good circumstances, were to go among 
the poor and ignorant, open up all the secrets of their hearts, 
recount the whole train of circumstances which contributed to 
elevate their condition, I can conceive of nothing which, for 
the time being, would so much expand the bosoms of those 
who believed, either rightly or erroneously, that fortune had 
frowned upon them. But, first: the thing cannot be done. 
Such a fearless and unreserved revelation of one's whole 
thoughts and actions can proceed from none but angels. 
Second : the exposition of so great an amount of infirmities, 
as the revelation would disclose, and as would be shown to 
attend frequently the most enviable condition, would cause 
the vicious and the ignorant to hug vice and ignorance still 
closer. The greater part would become more bold and confi- 
dent than ever, since there was no such broad mark of distinc 
tion, as had been imagined, between the highest and lowest 
condition. And one great check to irregularities of conduct 
would be removed. The counselors and the counseled in such 
an enterprise are equally covered with all sorts of infirmities. 
And the true way to get rid of these is to proceed upon the 
belief that they do not exist, or, at any rate, that they are only 
adventitious. In this way every one will be nerved to a greater 
amount of exertion tban would otherwise be the case. If those 
who are placed in what is termed low life could penetrate the 
gaudy exterior of high life, they would find as little enjoyment 
as in their own humble sphere. Wealth creates full as many 
disquietudes as it heals. Fortunately they are unable to lift 
the veil ; for then, perhaps, all human exertions would speed- 
ily come to an end. 

It may then be inquired why do legislators constantly incul- 



100 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



cate the maxim tbat all men are equal. And the answer is 
plain : First. Because to teach and to act upon it is the only 
way of attaining equality, to the extent to which it is actually 
attained. Second. Because it is not in the power of govern- 
ment to make anything like an accurate discrimination between 
the inequalities of different men, and the attempt to do so 
would be to encroach upon those points in which there is no 
inequality. Third. Because the principle of equality may very 
well be recognized as the rule among men as citizens — as mem- 
bers of a political community, although as individuals there 
may be great and numerous inequalities between them. The 
utmost which the citizen can demand is that no law shall be 
passed to obstruct his rise, and to impede his progress through 
life. He has then an even chance with all his fellows. If he 
does not become their equal his case is beyond the reach of 
society, and to complain would be to quarrel with his own 
nature. 

It cannot be concealed that a difficulty now presents itself 
which is entitled to particular attention. Here are two sets of 
ideas which do not quadrate with each other : equality pro- 
claimed by the laws, and inequality in fact. And as, notwith- 
standing the artificial distinctions which we may make between 
the individual and the citizen, the former may be disposed to 
carry all his prejudices, narrow views, and selfish interests, 
into the arena of politics, it might be supposed that a scene of 
discord would be introduced, which, after lasting for a given 
period, must terminate in the ascendency of one or other of 
these rival principles. Hence the misgivings of many persons 
otherwise possessing good sense and reflection in an eminent 
degree. If they do not believe, they at any rate doubt whether 
the undisguised recognition of the principle of equality in 
America is not destined to take entire possession of society, 
and ultimately to level the whole fabric of its institutions. 
The masses are put in possession of the same privileges 
as the educated and the wealthy; and, in the event of a 
struggle between the two orders, will not numbers be sure to 
gain the advantage? 

But the principle of equality is itself the parent of another 
principle, which sets bounds to it, and limits its operation in 
practice. The same laws which declare that all men are equal, 



CHAP. V.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



101 



give unbounded scope to the enterprise and industry of all. 
Neither family, nor rank, nor education confer any peculiar 
advantages in running the career which is now opened. In 
many respects they even throw obstacles in the way. Men 
without education, with ordinary faculties, and who com- 
menced life with little or nothing, are continually emerging 
from obscurity, and displacing those who have acquired for- 
tunes by inheritance. They constitute emphatically the class 
of rich in the United States. It is the principle of equality 
there which introduces all the inequality which is established 
in that country. The effects are visible to every one, and are 
understood and appreciated by the most ignorant men. Every 
one is a witness to the miracles which industry and common 
sagacity produce. No one distrusts himself ; no one can per- 
ceive those minute shades of character and disposition, which 
determine the destiny of some individuals, making some rich, 
and leaving others poor. All place an equal reliance upon 
their own efforts to carve out their fortunes, until at length 
the period of life begins to shorten ; when cool reflection and 
judgment take the place of the passions ; and whether they 
have succeeded or failed, a new feeling comes over every one 
— a disposition to submit quietly to what is the inevitable, 
because it is the natural progress of things. 

Thus as it is impossible among millions to say who, in run- 
ning the career of wisdom, influence, or wealth, will attain the 
goal. Government very rightly establishes the broad and in- 
discriminate rule of equality, and the very means which it 
makes use of to effect this object, obliterates all artificial 
distinction, and yet brings out in bolder relief all the natural 
inequalities of men. And as a large proportion of the envious 
are constantly rising into the ranks of the envied, a powerful 
check is imposed upon the revolutionary tendenies of the 
former. They cannot reach, nor after reaching, will they be 
able to enjoy, that which is the constant aim of all their efforts, 
without lending an earnest and vigorous support to the laws 
under which they live. And in this way, free institutions are 
saved from shipwreck, by the thorough and undisguised adop- 
tion of a principle which seemed calculated to produce pre- 
cisely opposite effects. It affords a remarkable example of the 
intimate union between two things apparently contradictory ; 



102 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book L 



and to what an extent the system of compensations exists in 
a country of free institutions, by means of which the defects 
of one part are cured by some effectual contrivance in another. 
Hence the surprise which has been constantly expressed by 
Europeans, from the day the corner stone of the American 
government was laid, down to the present, that although a 
degree of liberty has been communicated to the people, utterly 
unknown at any preceding period, society exhibits more evi- 
dence of happiness and prosperity than are visible anywhere 
else ; that for so large an empire, wonderful tranquility pre- 
vails; and that the political institutions, instead of losing 
strength, are in reality increasing in solidity and firmness. 
There does exist in that community, as much as in any other, 
a powerful control upon the unruly elements of society. But 
this is not the result of an artificial system ; the control is 
wider in its operation than anywhere else ; and it is, for that 
reason, more effectual than in any other government. 

They who entertain fears that the enjoyment of so much 
liberty in the United States will exert any other than a favor- 
able influence upon the social organization, and the political in- 
stitutions, should recollect that equality may be a regulative 
principle of the highest importance, without ever being pushed 
to anything like the furthest extent. The laws may presup- 
pose the possibility of pushing it so far, just as the precepts 
of morality suppose, that they may be carried in great perfec- 
tion into the practice of an individual. The advantage of hav- 
iug some great principle constantly in view, is that it will then 
be sure of having some influence upon some individuals, and 
a very great influence upon all others. Human nature modi- 
fies and sets bounds to all laws; but in order to render the 
principle of equality efficacious as a regulative principle, it is 
necessary to admit the abstract rule in all its universality. 
The more widely the rules of morality are circulated, and the 
more earnestly they are insisted upon, the greater will be the 
number of those whose conduct will be formed by them : and 
the more thoroughly the maxim of equality is taught, the 
more numerous will be the persons who will strive to make 
themselves equal to the wisest and best. More vigor, euter- 
prize, and intelligence, will be imparted to every one; and 
the moral force communicated to society will contribute to 



CHAP. V.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



103 



rectify the very disorders which are supposed to be insepara- 
ble from the recognition of the principle. 

Although then the struggle for equality never can produce 
equality in fact, yet there is an immensely wide scope within 
which it may operate. If the wealthy, and those who found 
themselves upon the advantages of family, and rank, feel 
themselves incommoded by this eternal jostling — this con- 
tinued struggle of- inferior classes to rise to their level — 1 can 
easily conceive that the inconvenience may be productive of 
very great advantage. 

If the difference between the higher and lower classes, iu 
point of morals and intelligence, is not so great as is sup- 
posed ; if the former wear, for the most part, an outside show ; 
the struggle for equality, by unveiling them, by exposing their 
false pretensions, will apply a sort of coercive influence to 
compel them to act up to the duties of their station. They 
will at first endeavor to rid themselves of the inconvenience, 
by descending to the level of the lowest — by imitating their 
manners, and truckling to their prejudices. The effect will 
not be lasting; the plan cannot be carried out. And, after 
vaiu efforts to reconcile qualities the most incompatible, they 
will be driven to the necessity of cultivating habits which, as 
they most become, so they are universally expected from them. 
If adversity contributes to elevate the human character, and 
if the struggle for equality is to be regarded as a species of 
adversity which is constantly present with us, it cannot fail to 
exercise a salutary influence. The diffusion of property and 
education are not sufficient to produce the degree of reflection 
which is requisite to maintain free institutions. The acquisi- 
tion of property, notwithstanding its manifold benefits, has a 
tendency to undo all that education has done. Tii6 affluent 
become too contented, too self-complacent, to be either virtu- 
ous or wise. The ever-enduring struggle for equality is the 
only agent which, united with property and education, will 
conduce to the right ordering of society. 



104 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



CHAPTER VI. 
THE ELECTORAL FRANCHISE. 

There are two plans upon which we may proceed in form- 
ing a constitution of government. By one, the political power 
is vested in a select number, composing what is termed the 
aristocracy of wealth aud talent; and to accomplish this, the 
electoral franchise, and the eligibility to office, are both re- 
stricted. The advantages of the plan are supposed to consist 
in the greater stability of the public administration, and the 
superior energy which the government will possess, in sup- 
pressing every species of insubordination. The second plan 
opens the door wide to the electoral privilege, and the admis- 
sion to office. Doubtless the great problem in political science 
is to procure the greatest amount of liberty, consistent with the 
greatest decree of public tranquility. And as we are compelled 
to take for granted, that a large portion of the vice and licen- 
tiousness which have characterized the people of former times 
will always be found in society, it may be argued that the 
first plan is the safest and most judicious ; but the republics 
which flourished in Italy, in the thirteenth and fourteenth 
centuries, were modeled upon this plan, and yet were a prey 
to the most atrocious violence and tyranny. For after this 
disposition is made of the poltical power, the question still 
occurs : in what way shall the governors themselves be gov- 
erned % A large share of authority is conferred upon the gov- 
ernment, for the purpose of preserving order, and yet this 
authority is without any effectual control. Opening the door 
wide to every species of political privilege, is the most certain 
means of increasing the natural aristocracy, and of combining 
vigor in the government with popular freedom. For it is re- 
markable that although in the Italian republics, the public 
officers were generally elected for very limited terms, for six, 
and sometimes for so short a time as two months, it imposed 



CHAP. VI. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



105 



no check upon the exercise of the most arbitrary authority. 
The moral sense — the perception of the plain distinction be- 
tween right and wrong, was wanting in the whole community. 
There was ample power and opportunity to render the princi- 
ple of responsibility a powerful restraint upon the conduct of 
public men ; but there was no adequate appreciation of that 
conduct; no more meaning was attached to the words just 
and unjust, than belonged to them in the monarchical govern- 
ments of western and northern Europe ; — a striking example 
of the important. agency which the political institutions have 
in forming the manners and habits of different nations. In 
all those communities, the select few who were chosen to 
conduct the public administration were thorougly trained to 
the requisite skill and intelligence : in the Italian republics 
to a much greater extent than in Great Britain and France, 
because at that day, the electoral franchise was much less re- 
stricted in the former. If, then, we extend political privileges 
of every kind still further, and convert the great body of the 
peo pie into citizens, the conclusion is fair that the same skill 
and intelligence will be diffused among the whole population. 
Now, it is these very qualities which develop that moral sense — 
that quick perception of what is right or wrong in the conduce 
of public men — which 1 have noticed as being so deficient in 
the Italian commuuities. The men who held important posts 
in Genoa, Venice and Florence, were sufficiently instructed, in 
consequence of their situation, in everything which affected 
their own interests. But those interests were, by set design, 
placed in contradiction with those of the mass of the people. 
Impart to the latter the same privileges, and the contradiction 
will disappear. For inasmuch as these will feel an equally 
strong interest in the protection of their own rights, and will 
possess the moral power to enforce them, public men will 
be compelled to conform their conduct more and more to 
this altered state of public sentiment. The standard of right 
and wrong will of necessity, and not from choice, have a just 
and definite meaning. No education can instill the moral 
sense in any individual. But a certain train of circumstances, 
and the discipline to which these subject the actions of men, 
are indispensable in order to develop it and keep it in con- 
stant activity. 



106 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book t 



In the history of society we may remark three distinct 
grades of liberty, which have existed in different governments. 
The first is where freedom is confined to the governors. This 
is the case in pure monarchy and aristocracy. Although the 
governments of Russia and Denmark are in no sense free, yet 
the Banish and Russian nobility, at any rate, enjoy as much 
political liberty as the American people. But the Danish and 
Russian people enjoy none. The second is where the people 
are divided into active and passive citizens ; the former pos- 
sessing political liberty, while the latter live securely in the 
enjoyment of civil liberty only. The British government is 
the fairest example of this class which has ever existed. 
The third is where all the people are full and complete citi- 
zens, possessing both civil and political privileges. This can 
only be the case in a country where free institutions are estab- 
lished. 

It is not difficult to account for this great diversity in the 
structure of different governments. Society everywhere ap- 
pears to have been at a very early period divided into distinct 
classes. This institution was, by no means, peculiar to Egypt 
and Hindostan. But the superstitious observances which 
were ingrafted upon it in those countries, and the immobile 
character of the population which prolonged its duration, 
have rendered it more striking than anywhere else. 

The separation of the people into different orders lay at the 
foundation of the Grecian and Roman commonwealths. It 
may be distinctly traced in the history of all the modern Eu- 
ropean States; and vestiges more or less plain are discernible 
in the most of them -down to the present day. The division 
of the population into nobility, clergy, burgesses, and peas- 
antry, constituted at one time the settled classification of so- 
ciety in England and Scotland. Some of the ancient charters 
and statutes even went as far as the Roman laws, in forbid- 
ding inter-marriages among some of the classes. Guardians 
were prohibited from 11 disparaging their wards by wedlock 
with persons of an inferior condition." An inferior caste was 
recognized, into which the military tenants could not marry 
without degradation. It is not necessary to account for this 
from the fact that, long after the Saxon conquest, the Roman 
law composed the groundwork of the jurisprudence. The 



CHAP. VI.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



107 



operation of the same general laws, which gave rise every- 
where else to the existence of fixed classes, produced the 
same effect in England. No doubt now remains but that the 
institutions originally grew out of conquest — probably out of 
successive conquests. The conquerors composed the superior, 
the conquered the inferior ranks. In the course of time the 
different races in England and Scotland were melted into one. 
And the progress of civilization in the other European states 
has, in a great measure, obliterated this as well as every other 
remnant of an antiquated society. 

It is not the least remarkable of the circumstances attend- 
ing the first settlement of the United States, that the native 
population were so thin and so immensely inferior to the emi- 
grants, that it disappeared as fast as these advanced. If the 
country had been as fully peopled as Mexico, great difficul- 
ties would have presented themselves in the formation of that 
system of uniform institutions which now exist. The Indian 
race would have been disfranchised, precisely as are the Afri- 
cans in both the northern and southern States. They would 
have composed as distinct a caste as these last do. The dis- 
tinction would have been nearly the same as prevails in Hin- 
dostan. 

The most obvious idea which we can form of government is 
that it is an institution intended for the common benefit of 
the whole people. JSTor is there any difficulty in realizing this 
idea, where the population does not consist of different races. 
Mere varieties of the same race oppose no obstacle, as has 
been proved in America, where one uniform system of laws 
causes these varieties to disappear in two or three generations. 
But where the community is artificially distributed into classes 
which possess unequal privileges, the term government loses 
its just signification. One part of the population is then for- 
cibly elevated, and another depressed; and civil society be- 
comes an institution, exclusively appropriated to the advan- 
tage of the former. The great body of the people live under, 
but not in it. 

The disposition which governments shall make of the elec- 
toral franchise is destined to exercise a more important influ- 
ence upon human aftairs, than any other political regulation 
of which I am aware. And the reason is obvious. There is 



108 NATURE AND TENDENCY [book l 

none which is calculated to produce so deep an impression 
upon the structure of society, and at the same time to affect so 
fundamentally the form of the government. The tendency 
everywhere at the present day, is to extend the privilege. For 
every enlargement of it increases the demand, by raising up 
a greater number of people who are fitted to exercise it. The 
improvement of the political institutions, and the improve- 
ment of the population, go hand in hand. 

Why are the people in mass admitted to the electoral fran- 
chise in the United States, is a problem which has constantly 
exercised my mind. Wherever I cast my eyes, I seemed to 
see evidence of its being a solecism in politics. It I walked 
the streets of city or town, for one tolerably informed indi- 
vidual, I met with twenty who were the reverse. If I traveled 
on the highway, the same fact was exhibited even more glar- 
ingly. The great majority of persons I met, appeared to 
know nothing beyond the narrow circle of their daily occupa- 
tions. 

But there is another fact equally striking, which presented 
itself to my mind, although the number of intelligent was in 
so small a proportion to the ignorant, the number of bad, or 
improvident laws, compared with those which were wise and 
salutary, was in an inverse ratio. They were even greatly less 
than one in twenty. I observed that the greatest stability 
reigned in those matters which concerned the general welfare. 
I witnessed a great deal of party strife; but in taking an 
account of the legislation for any series of years, I could not 
discover that there had been any material departure from one 
uniform system which had prevailed from the beginning. The 
constitutions of the different states did not appear to be the 
work of ignorant men ; the whole code of civil and criminal 
law was modeled with as much judgment and ability as if 
none but the well informed had been the electors. 

There are two forces necessary to conduct the affairs of so- 
ciety : 1st. A certain amount of intelligence. 2d. A certain 
amount of integrity, or honesty of purpose. Now, admitting 
that so far as intelligence is concerned, it would be expedient 
to entrust the whole administration of the government to that 
very small class who possess intelligence ; yet as the posses- 
sion of office is corrupting in a high degree, the experiment 



CHAP. VI.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



109 



must necessarily be a failure : that is, the affairs of govern- 
ment would be so conducted as to subserve the interests of 
those who enjoyed a monopoly of power, and not the interests 
of the whole community. Some plan must then be fallen 
upon, even though it should be in many respects imperfect, 
in order to rectify this great defect in the composition of so- 
ciety. We cannot find the requisite qualities of intelligence 
and honesty of purpose always united in the same individuals ; 
but if we can find the intelligence in one class, and the hon- 
esty of purpose, though without the intelligence, in another, 
we may combine the two together, making one people of them, 
and thus answer the conditions of the problem we are in 
search of. It will be no answer to say that this will be done 
imperfectly. This is admitted ; for every instrument of gov- 
ernment must partake of the defect of the materials from 
which it is made. But it will be correct to say, that the plan 
will be more efficacious than any other which can be devised. 
It may be objected that honesty of purpose is no more char^ 
acteristic of the masses than it is of the intelligent, that it is 
even less so, a certain amount of intelligence being necessary 
to make up the character of iutegrity in its genuine significa- 
tion ; that the common people are as much addicted to the 
practice of over-reaching each other in their dealings as any 
other class. This will also be admitted. But the material 
inquiry is, whether they are, or in the nature of things can 
be, so much so in what coucerns public affairs. A small 
number of men to whom the electoral franchise, and eligibil- 
ity to office, were confined, might very easily live upou the 
people. The taxes extracted from them, would be sufficient 
to gratify the most extravagant desires, aud the most insatia- 
ble avarice. But it is impossible for the people to live upon 
the people. The taxes imposed are only sufficient to pay the 
small number who conduct the machinery of government, and 
the amount necessary for this must be derived from their 
labor. So far as regards the expenditure of public money, 
the common people may be considered as possessing honesty 
of purpose in a political sense, in a high degree. They are 
deeply interested in preventing the public revenue from beiug 
squandered. This integrity of conduct may be a negative 
quality, but it is not the less efficacious on that account. In 



110 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book l 



politics, positive and negative qualities sometimes count for 
the same. It is the matter of fact we have to deal with ; and 
it is clear that the interest of the people is identical with that 
of the public, for they are the public. But the interest of the 
office holders may be directly opposed 10 that of the public. 
It is self-interest which renders the former honest in political 
matters, and it is the same quality which, under the guise of 
a half-courtly, half-sanctimonious exterior, helps to make the 
latter corrupt. 

It is in this way that we may account for what would other- 
wise appear to be an anomaly in the institutions of the United 
States : the permitting all classes to exercise the electoral 
franchise. It would seem at first view that we should have 
regard not merely to the number, but to the intensity of the 
wills intended to be represented. And this is true, provided 
this intensity of will, or superior intelligence, was free from 
the vice of selfishness, and manifested itself in a due compre- 
hension of the public interests, and an inflexible will in pur- 
suing them. But as we cannot find the two elements com- 
bined in one class, we are driven to the expedient of admitting 
all classes to participation in the electoral franchise. The 
power of control which is thus possessed by the governed 
over the governing, is indispensable in order to obtain all the 
ends of good government. 

The system contains within itself a- self corrective principle. 
The longer the people are habituated to the exercise of the 
franchise, the more completely will they grow into it. In 
France, when the revolution broke out, no class possessed the 
right of voting for any purpose. None had any voice in con- 
stituting any one of the departments of government. The 
consequence was, that the men of letters, the merchants, 
monied men, and principal tradesmen, were the instigators, 
and chief actors in that revolution. Had they been accus- 
tomed for a very long period to the exercise of the privilege, 
the government would have undergone a gradual reformation. 
In the three first volumes of Mr. Bancroft's history, the first ru- 
diments of American institutions, are set forth with great judg- 
ment, and perspicuity. The historian deduces from the events 
he relates, the important fact, that whenever the people were 
left to themselves, and were rid of the rule of royal or pro- 



CHAP. VI.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



Ill 



prietary government, their affairs were conducted with the 
greatest judgment and address. If any one should say, "ad- 
mit the great body of the people to the elective franchise, but 
exclude the lowest class;" the answer is, that in a community 
where there has been a pretty equal distribution of property 
from the beginning, the mischiefs arising from the possession 
of political rights by even the lowest class, will be altogether 
less, than in a country where everything has commenced wrong, 
and where the Jaws are studiously intent on condensing prop- 
erty in the hands of a few. The lowest class will not be of 
sufficient magnitude in the former, to make any sensible im- 
pression upon the result of the vote. The United States are 
the first country which has made the experiment upon a large 
scale, and it is of infinite moment to pursue it until its practi- 
cability is fairly tested. The lowest class have a stake in the 
commonwealth as well as any other class; they are the most 
defenceless portion of the population ; and the sense of inde- 
pendence which the enjoyment of political rights inspires, in 
innumerable instances acts as a stimulus to the acquisition of 
property. If the experiment fails, if the intervention of the 
lowest class in the elections, exercises too disturbing an in- 
fluence upon the motions of the government, the expedient 
which has been adopted in the government of cities, and 
towns may be easily resorted to. The difficulty would be ex- 
ceedingly great, impossible I may say, of effecting a change 
now. The lowest class are for the most part laborers, but 
their wages are such as to enable them to live in great com- 
fort; they are closely connected with the great class which 
stauds above them; and the sympathy which exists between 
the two, would not permit the enactment of any law which 
should exclude the former from their present position. But if 
a host of proletarians should rise up, whose voice in the gov- 
ernment was detrimental to the public interests, unfriendly to 
the maintenance of that order, regularity, and justice, which 
makes up the true idea of a commonwealth, the feeling of 
sympathy would be lost, and as there would be no motive for 
continuing a rule after the reason for it has ceased, the great 
body of the commonwealth, who will forever be the majority, 
would unite in imposing some restriction on the electoral fran- 
chise. 



112 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[hook I. 



One very important consequence follows from these views ; 
that it will be necessary to enlarge the rule of eligibility to 
office in the same proportion as that for the electoral franchise. 
If one is without restriction, the other should be so also. The 
ground upon which the argument in the first part proceeds, is that 
it is impossible to find in one class all the qualities which are 
requisite to good government. But if we fiud them separately 
existing in two classes, we may by combining them iuto one 
class for political purposes, attain the desired end. Although 
honesty in political matters may simply consist in an instinc- 
tive resistance of the general interest to the private interest of 
a few, yet if in practice the consequences are the same, as if it 
proceeded from natural integrity of character, the legislator 
will have attained all he has any right to expect. The public- 
interest is promoted by honest views. If honesty of purpose 
is the moving spring, the end is attained in its greatest per 
fection. If on the other hand, an interest in the general weal 
is the moving spring, the same political end is attained. As 
a substitute for a property qualification for office, some have 
proposed to place the age of the candidate high, to require 
that they should be forty or forty-five before admission 
even to the legislative body. This is evidently impractible, 
unless we raise the requisite age of the voters also. It is they 
who determine the rule of eligibility to office, and it is very 
improbable that they would deprive themselves of the privi- 
lege. But there are very wise reasons why this restriction 
should not be imposed. It would lower instead of elevating 
the capacity of candidates for office. At present, electors are 
the persons elected, and these again fall into the body of elec- 
tors. If the legislature then, is a school of discipline for those 
who compose it, it is equally so for the electors. In this way 
a most advantagous influence is exercised upon the whole mass 
of the population. The consciousness that they are electors, 
and that they may be elected to a place of trust, sharpens the 
minds of individuals, and even amidst the confusion of party 
politics, rears up a much greater number of sagacious, and 
well informed persons, than might at first be supposed. If 
during the last seventy years, all the citizens uuder forty had 
been debarred from the elective franchise, or entering the leg- 
islative assemblies in America, there would have been less in- 



CHAP. VI.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



113 



stead of more order in the conduct of public affairs ; for the 
great mass of the population would have possessed less iutel- 
ligence, sagacity and prudence. Bacon has said that there is 
"but one mode of predicting political events, and that is by 
ascertaining the predominant opinions of the average of men 
who are under thirty." We are enabled to do this in a clear, 
determinate, and legal way, by endowing them with political 
privileges. It is for this reason, that even in the constitutional 
monarchies of England and France, the age of the electors and 
members of the legislature is placed so low. Some of the 
states which compose the Swiss confederacy, have erred on 
the other side. The age in some is so low as eighteen, and in 
others sixteen. The legislative assembly is the place where 
opinions are discussed, and where alone materials can be col- 
lected for predicting, as well as for providing for the future. 
It is very important that the opinions of the young should 
mingle with those of mature age. If inconvenience is expe- 
rienced from the ardent character of the one, fully as much 
would be suffered from the narrow and obstinate prejudices of 
the other. The political prosperity of the United States, the 
stability in the midst of progress, which the institutions ex- 
hibit, are attributable to the young and the old being admitted 
to the public councils. This has not given a predominance to 
the opinions of either. It has simply operated a fusion of the 
opinions of the two, and has placed at the command of society, 
all the genius, and activity of the one, together with all the 
wisdom, and ability of the other. 

M. Ohabrol, in his "Recherches Statistiques," calculates 
that nineteen-twentieths of the people of France are depend- 
ent on their labor, or personal exertions of some kind, for 
their subsistence; in other words, that not more than one- 
twentieth are in a condition to live upon their income merely. 
Tucker, in his work on the census of the United States, has 
made the same calculation for the people of that country. 
The knowledge of this fact, M. Sismondi considers indispensa- 
ble, in order to make a wise and safe distribution of the polit- 
ical power. If nineteen-twentieths of the population are con- 
demned to employments which do not permit the free and vig- 
orous exercise of their understandings, is it not absurd, asks 
M. Sismondi, to endow all the people equally with the electoral 
8 



114 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book l 



franchise; in other words, to give nineteen times more power 
to the ignorant, than to those who are capable of understand- 
ing the interests of the country. But we should commit a 
great mistake if we supposed that the calculation of M. Chab- 
rol had the same meaning in all countries. Although in every 
country the cumber of these devoted to physical labor is nine- 
teen to one, it will not follow that the condition of the class is 
the same in all. For instance, the majority of proprietors in the 
United States possess from eighty to two hundred acres of land ; 
in France, from six to ten; in Great Britain, from fifteen to 
twenty-five; nevertheless, the American proprietor is as depen- 
dent for his maintenance upon the cultivation of his farm, as 
the French or English proprietor. But the maintenance of the 
former comprehends much more than that of the two last. In 
Great Britain, the rural population composes one third, in the 
United States it is three-fourths of the population. These cir- 
cumstances place a wide distinction between the population of 
the United States and that of Great Britain or France. The 
proportion of the rural population is as great in France as in 
the United States, but their condition is infinitely lower. Al- 
though nineteen-twentieths of the American people are de- 
pendent upon their labor, yet if more than one-half of this 
number are placed in any easy condition, and have revenue 
greatly superior to the same class in other countries, their 
labor will not be anything like so intense and humiliating. 
The condition of the majority of French proprietors is little 
better than of the English operatives: neither earn more than 
enough to satisfy the lowest animal wants. American pro- 
prietors, on the contrary, live in comfort, and a fair opportu- 
nity is afforded for the development of their understandings. 
For even where the education is of a limited character, the 
feeling of independence gives a spring to the intellectual 
faculties. The difference between the American and Euro- 
pean laborer is as great as between the American and Euro- 
pean proprietor. The American laborer earns from three pecks 
to a bushel of wheat daily ; the average wages of even the 
English laborer during the last five centuries have been a lit- 
tle more than one peck. 

M. Sismondi insists [Etudes sur les Seiences Sociales, v. 1, 
p. 54] that the most fortunate result which can be expected 



t 

chap. VI.] OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 115 

from an election by universal suffrage, is that the choice will 
be a mean between all the differences, so that if there are 
nineteen ignorant electors for one well informed, the legisla- 
tive body will be nineteen-twentieths nearer the ignorance of 
the one than the intelligence of the other. This, however, is 
contradicted by universal experience. The opinion of Brougham 
is more correct, when he declares that, " if universal suffrage 
were now established in Great Britain, not one peasant would 
be elected to Parliament." Moral inability produces nearly 
the same results as physical inability. Those who are without 
knowledge, without ability, or aptitude for public affairs, feel 
themselves instinctively and irresistibly impelled to lean upon 
thote who have these qualities in some respectable degree. 
There never has been a legislative assembly chosen by the 
people which did not contain men of high character and supe- 
rior endowments. In France, after the revolution of 1848, 
such men as De Tocqueville, Berry er, Thiers, Barrot, Dupin, 
Arago, &c, were immediately elected to the legislative body. 
The same result has invariably taken place in the United 
States. Why this should be the case — why some men of su- 
perior merit are returned together with a greater number of 
inferior capacities, and why the first will be able to exert a 
decisive influence in the assembly, affords matter for curious 
inquiry : 1st. There is in all men a natural and instinctive 
respect for superior knowledge. It is not the result of reflec- 
tion, and therefore cannot be got rid of any more than our 
other instincts. 2d. The sharp edge of envy is taken off by 
the knowledge which the people have that the successful can- 
didates owe their election to them. 3d. Every one in the 
affairs of private life calls upon others to do what he cannot 
do, or do so skillfully himself: upon the lawyer, in a legal 
controversy; upon the physician, in sickness. 4th. These 
causes are greatly strengthened by a circumstance peculiar to 
political men. The public display which they make, the topics 
they debate, strike powerfully upon the imagination of the 
common people. They are not merely instructed ; they are 
amused, and their feelings roused, by the animating spectacle 
which public affairs present. But there i& nothing to produce 
animation when the public arena is occupied by dull, ignorant 
men, any more than there is at the theatre where the actors 



110 NATURE AND TENDENCY [jjook L 

have Done of the inspiration of genius. Through these various 
instrumentalities, some men of ruling intellect are sure to be 
elected to an assembly which has to do with great affairs ; and 
such men, for even stronger reasons than have influenced the 
electors, will exert a commanding influence upon the other 
members. Superior minds, in whatever sphere they move, j>ive 
unity to the thoughts and actions of other men. Profound wri- 
ters, the pulpit, the bar, the seminaries of learning, all contribute 
to this great end. If we survey the condition of a savage or 
half-civilized community, we find this principle of unity en- 
tirely wanting: every thing which relates to the social, moral 
and political regime, is at loose ends. If we examine the con- 
dition of a civilized country, but in which internal commotions 
have for a time broken in upon the regular order of society, 
we find the same fact exemplified in a remarkable manner. 
If we look into the condition of the same country, when enjoy- 
ing tranquility, we find a state of things entirely the reverse. 
Every thing is in its place; the thoughts and actions of men 
are controlled by a principle of unity, and that principle of 
unity is contained in the moral and intellectual machinery 
which is in operation. The institution of government con- 
tributes greatly to this end ; it binds up the scattered, inco- 
herent thoughts and interests of men, and makes them all tend 
to some common end. The use of representative government, 
as contra- distinguished from pure democracy, is not to reflect 
the vague and loose opinions of the millions of men who live 
under it, but to sift those opinions, to draw out what is valua- 
ble, and thus to give fixedness, consistency and unity to the 
thoughts of men, as well as to the plans of government. This 
want is infinitely more pressing iu a country of great extent, 
than in oue of narrow dimensions. But even the small repub- 
lics of Greece were obliged to invent some plan in order to 
get rid of the disorder which would have arisen from an 
assemblage of the people in person ; such as vesting the sena- 
torial body with the initiative, confiding the reduction of the 
laws to special committees, or bureaus, and the appointment 
of a certain number of public orators. All these were repre- 
sentative bodies, and helped to make compensation for the 
inherent defects -of the system. Without some such expedi- 
ents, the legislative assembly would have been converted into 



CHAP. VI.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



117 



a bedlam. A government which is representative throughout, 
attains these ends in much higher perfection. It is not neces- 
sary, nor even desirable, that a country should employ all its 
eminent men in political affairs. There are other and higher 
occupations for the ruling minds who belong to it; higher, 
because the eminent political men of every country are them- 
selves formed, directly or indirectly, by the great thinkers aud 
writers in every department of knowledge. America so far 
presents the singular spectacle of a country whose eminent 
men have been formed by the great minds of other countries. 
It is fortunate, therefore, that she at least does not convert all 
her gifted citizens into public men. Provision will thus be 
made for building up a profound literature at home, and pre- 
venting our looking abroad in order to obtain the great rudi- 
ments of knowledge. We shall then cease to be an eleemo- 
synary people, in what relates to intellectual cultivation. 

The notion of a property qualification, as necessary to entitle 
to a vote, seems to be derived from feudal institutions- A very 
few instances of the same kind are to be found in antiquity. 
The feudal law so completely united every species of political 
right with dominion in the soil, that even after a regular 
representative assembly grew up, the rights of suffrage, as 
well as the capacity to hold office, was made to depend upon 
the fact whether the persons were landed proprietors or not. 
Iq Great Britain, a qualification of this kind is still necessary: 
a freehold in county, and a leasehold in borough elections. Iu 
Scotland, until recently, none but tenants iu eapite, that is, 
persons who held immediately of the crown (whether really or 
constructively, was immaterial) had a right to vote iu county 
elections. For the most extraordinary part of the system was, 
that it was by a fiction only they were so denominated. It 
was not necessary that they should have any interest whatever 
in the soil. They possessed the franchise on account of what, 
in technical language, is termed superiority. They were 
originally tenants in capite ; but it was in the power of any 
one to sever his superiority from his land ; selliug the last, 
and yet retaining the former: the purchaser consequently 
acquiring the right to a vote. This was a strange anomaly at 
any time; but that such a law should be found standing in 
the midst of the light of the nineteenth century, and in the 



118 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book i. 



most enlightened country of Europe, is difficult to explain by 
any sensible mode of reasoning. It shows that the artificial 
governments alone are able to reconcile the most heterogenous 
and contradictory things — can insist that the public safety 
demands that property and power should forever go together; 
and then throw away the principle as unmeaning and value- 
less, and confer power upon those who have no property. The 
consequence of this state of things was, the electoral franchise 
was much more restricted, and the system of representation 
altogether more irregular, than in either England or Ireland. 

In France, since the creation of a house of deputies, a differ- 
ent plan has been adopted. The right to a vote depends upon 
the payment of a certain amount of taxes, varying at different 
periods, from forty to sixty dollars for each individual. This 
presupposes the possession of property, but then it may be 
(indifferently, either real or personal. The tax must be a direct 
•one, but even if there is any real distinction between what are 
termed direct and what are termed indirect taxes, the former 
are deemed equally applicable to both kinds of property. In 
America, a property qualification was once necessary in all the 
state governments; and in the federal government, the right 
to a vote for members of the house of representatives was the 
same as it was in each state, for the most numerous branch of 
the state legislature. The laws, however, have undergone a 
total alteration in almost all the states. Universal suffrage is 
now the rule, a property qualification the exception ; and the 
elections to the federal legislature are obliged to conform 
themselves to the changes made in the respective states. 

The origin of a custom is never sufficient to determine its 
utility, nor to give us its true meaning at a subsequent time. 
Such changes take place in the frame of society, in modern 
communities, that an institution which was well enough adapt- 
ed to a very imperfect civilization, may lose its signification 
and become highly injurious at a more advanced period. It 
is true, it sometimes happens that an institution which was 
fitted to answer one purpose, may, when that has ceased to 
exist, be found to answer some other end in a still higher 
degree. And therefore, it cannot be stated as an universal 
proposition, that if the original design has failed, the institu- 
tion should therefore be abolished. But it is still more neces- 



CHAP. VI ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



119 



sary to guard against the opposite error, and never to take for 
granted that the antiquity of an institution is what entitles it 
to the respect of mankind. The prejudice is sometimes of ad- 
vantage, by correcting the precipitancy of innovation. But in 
the greater number of instances, it only darkens and confuses 
the understanding, and contributes to retain society in a sta- 
tionary condition. 

A property qualification has been defended in modern times, 
on two grounds : First, That property is the chief thing 
which the laws have to deal with, and therefore it is fit that 
the privilege should be worn by those who represent the most 
important interests of society. Second. That as a general 
rule, the possession of property affords a surer test of a capac- 
ity for the judicious exercise of the electoral franchise, than 
any other which can be devised. 

To disseminate property, is to disseminate power ; and on 
the other hand, the diffusion of liberty gives rise to the diffu- 
sion of both property and power. And as the true plan of 
balancing power is to prevent its concentration in the hands 
of a few — to distribute it as widely as possible ; so the only 
mode by which we can contrive to govern the governors, is to 
open the way to all classes of men for the acquisition of prop- 
erty ; and the most effectual way of doing this is to extend 
the electoral franchise as widely as practicable. Neither the 
abolition of primogeniture, nor any other enactment ot the 
civil code, has in the United States assisted so much in effect- 
ing a distribution of property, as have the political institu- 
tions. So that even admitting, as a general rule, that it is fit 
power and property should go together, it cannot be wise to 
adopt a system, the direct effect of which is to prevent the 
growth and dissemination of property. Formerly, landed 
property constituted the principal capital of society; but the 
case is now very much altered. Industry, sagacity, and enter- 
prise, though they can neither be seen nor touched, compose, 
at the present day, the chief elements of wealth. No man, 
however affluent, can now tell with any degree of certainty 
how long his estate will continue to be enjoyed by his descend- 
ants; such is the rapidity with which the inert habits of those 
who are born rich permit property to crumble, and such the 
corresponding activity with which those who are born poor 



120 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book i. 



acquire the ability to appropriate that property to them- 
selves. 

Why it is, that the communication of political privileges 
to a people imparts so much vigor and activity to their whole 
character, is not difficult to account for. It removes a feeling 
of degradation, the invariable eflect of which is to benumb 
and stupefy the mind, if it does not produce worse conse- 
quences. It is true, one can hardly say, that the peasantry of 
Russia or Austria realize this feeling; since having been habit- 
uated, from time immemorial, to a state of complete subjection, 
they can hardly form an idea of the value of the privilege. 
But in all the constitutional monarchies of Europe, where the 
electoral franchise is already extended to a part of the popu- 
lation, those who are excluded from its exercise are able to 
make a comparison of their situation with that of others; and 
a sense of their own inferiority is forced upon them. 

The great advantage arising from the free communication 
of the privilege, consists then, in its giving men new faculties, 
and not merely new rights. It enables them for the first time to 
realize a sense of degradation, which they were before too much 
debased to feel. It places the great body of the population in 
the only condition in which it is possible to place them ; where 
their understandings will be opened, there views enlarged, and 
their feeling elevated. Nothing can be conceived more dreary 
and monotonous, than the time which is passed in the drudgery 
of supplying our animal wants, if their is nothing besides to 
give variety and interest to life. The beings who are con- 
demned to this species of subterranean existence, are never 
able to acquire the proper character of men. 

Medical writers have observed that nothing contributes so 
much to produce mental aberation as the habit acquired by 
some individuals of brooding over one train of • ideas. The 
mind which is exercised in this way, is deprived of its health- 
ful action ; the balance between its different faculties is lost, 
its strength gradually undermined. It is only in extreme 
cases that this takes place. But there is a condition of mind 
very similar to this, which may be termed fatuity — an intel- 
lectual torpor, which, in some countries, takes possession of 
whole classes; produced by the addiction to au exceedingly 
narrow round of pursuits, and which prevents the natural 



CHAP. VI.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



121 



play of the mental powers and affections. Long habit famil- 
iarizes the observer to this melancholy spectacle ; but it is not 
the less an example of mental abberration, though in a much 
less degree than the state before described. Whoever has 
closely watched the countenances and behavior of the peasantry 
of most European countries, when they arrive in the United 
States, must have been struck with this characteristic mark. 
There is an obtnseness of intellect, a withered and sunken 
aspect, a bent and difficult gait, which contrast strongly with 
the alert step and animated countenances of American agri- 
culturists. 

There are two modes of rectifying this unfortunate condi- 
tion of society — education, and the influence of free institu 
tions. Education alone is not sufficient. The mind may take 
in the mere rudiments of knowledge, and yet its faculties 
never be developed. The institutions under which we live, 
the social organization which encompasses us, are what give 
vitality and meaning to much the greater part of the knowl- 
edge which the bulk of mankind ever acquire. Liberty both 
imparts elasticity to the mind, and supplies the materials on 
which it is chiefly exercised ; for the general communication 
of an important political privilege breaks down the wall of 
partition between the different classes. Men of low degree 
are brought into association with those who* possess superior 
advantages. The former are taught to have more self-respect, 
more confidence in themselves; and the wide range of general 
information which is now placed within their reach, inspires 
the greatest inquisitiveness imaginable in regard to the con- 
duct of public affairs, in which they have now become actors 
themselves. All this, so far from withdrawing attention from 
their private pursuits, adds fresh vigor to their exertions, sim- 
ply because it supplies such a fund of variety to life. And 
thus this unexpected consequence follows, that in a country 
where no property qualification is attached to the enjoyment 
of political privileges, the number of people who possess 
property is the greatest. And wherever the qualification is 
highest, the less is the number of those who have property ; — 
a remarkable instance of the false train of reasoning to which 
the mind is frequently conducted, by an obstinate adherence 
to what is called the ancient and established order of society. 



122 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book l 



There is an old maxim that the political institutions can 
never be made to rise higher than the manners. And a more 
pernicious one has never been incorporated into the book of 
politics. There is no difference in this respect between politi- 
cal and any other institutions. And if the maxim had ever 
been carried to anything like its full extent, society would 
never have made a single step in improvement. For what are 
religion, education, and the body of conventional rules which 
preside over a community, but so many institutions, which, 
finding men ignorant and weak, lift them up, and make them 
better and wiser. The true maxim is that the political insti- 
tutions do exercise a most important influence upon the man- 
ners, and that every improvement of the former contributes to 
raise society to a higher level. And I am persuaded if some 
of the European governments I could name were resolved, 
manfully, but circumspectly, to rid themselves of the preju- 
dice, that what has been must continue to be, and if they 
would impart a large share of liberty to the people, that it 
would redound to the strength and prosperity of both govern- 
ment and people. 

There are several considerations, in addition to those already 
suggested, which go very far to show that a law which attaches 
a property qualification to the right of suffrage is unwise and 
without utility. 

First. Public opinion is becoming more and more the great 
moving force of all governments. It is then of the utmost 
importance to inquire what part of the population it is which 
contributes to the formation of this public opinion. Is it cer- 
tain that it is only the class of proprietors? Very far from it : 
There are great multitudes of people in Great Britain and 
France who are totally disfranchised, and whose opinions and 
interests are of so much consequence as to render their influ- 
ence, even when deprived of suffrage, of infinite importance, 
whether for good or for evil. And this constitutes the test 
of the expediency of a property qualification. If whole classes 
who are disqualified have sufficient weight in society to bear 
a part in the formation of public opinion, it decides the ques- 
tion in favor of a liberal rule of suffrage. If those who have 
faculties to think, and an abundant curiosity with* regard to 
all public affairs, are excluded from the privilege, they will 



CHAP. VI.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



123 



succeed in spite of every effort the legislator may make in 
giving" a direction to public opinion. 

I venture to say, that all the great measures of reform which 
have been set on foot during the last twenty years in Great 
Britain, have been brought about in great part, through the 
influence of that numerous body of active and intelligent citi- 
zens, who are shut out from a direct participation in political 
power. But critical emergencies occur in all governments ; 
when the passions of different orders of men are violently in- 
flamed; and when what was before an invisible influence, will 
come to wear a more palpable form. The whole class of dis- 
franchised, composed in part of sagacious and otherwise well 
disposed people, will then resemble a foreign force, rather than 
a body of orderly citizens, and may imagine, that in self-de- 
fense it is necessary to batter down existing institutions. 

The British, and still more the French government, is 
placed in this position. Two hundred thousand electors in the 
last, where the adult male population is five or six millions, 
is too great a disproportion ; and it is not surprising that the 
fear of a disputed succession, or some other speck discerned 
upon the political horizon, should produce so much apprehen- 
sion among those who take the lead in public affairs. In 
Great Britain, the reform bill extended the privilege consider- 
ably ; but one thirty-fifth part of the population is much 
too small a proportion in a country where the standard of 
popular intelligence has been so much elevated during the 
last half century. I am not acquainted with all the views of 
the English chartists ; but so formidable a body of men could 
hardly have been banded together in that great community, 
unless the electoral franchise was needlessly withheld from a 
very substantial part of the citizens, and unless those who 
were so earnest in endeavoring to effect a reform, had been 
animated by the characteristic good sense of the Anglo-Nor- 
man race. There is no necessity for acquiescing in the ex- 
treme views of Mr. Bentham, or Major Cartwright: a wide 
field for profitable legislation is opened, whether we adopt or 
discard them. The chartists have assuredly paved the way 
for further concessions at some future day. The present law of 
parliamentary reform, was talked about by the party in power, 



124 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[ BOOK L 



and the party in opposition, by Pitt and by Fox, as far back 
as 1786, and was achieved nearly half a century after. 

Second. A government which confines the electoral fran- 
chise within very narrow limits, fail to avail itself of the strength 
and faculties of the whole of its people. It is like the strong 
man cutting off his right arm with his left. In the United 
States, the enjoyment of the privilege by the great body of 
the people gives rise to order and tranquility, instead of 
tumult and insurrection. For an unmistakable test is thus 
afforded, that all public measures follow the course which the 
majority have decreed. And there is nothing which is so 
much calculated to subdue the will, and to produce an irresist- 
ible obedience to the laws, as thS knowledge that they are 
imposed by an authority which has the only legitimate title to 
command. This alone is an immense advantage to society : 
so that even admitting that public affairs are not, in every 
particular instance, conducted with as much judgment and 
discretion, as we could desire ; yet, if on the average, they are 
characterized by more prudence, and good sense, a greater 
deference to the public weal than is discoverable in other gov- 
ernments, we may even afford to prize the flaw in the system, 
for the sake of its general utility. Montesquieu said, if the 
press were established in Constantinople, it would diffuse 
light even in that region. And it has actually done so ; and 
I observe that every enlargement of the electoral franchise in 
Great Britain has had no other effect than to produce a 
greater degree of public tranquility. Invariably the introduc- 
tion of free institutions, if it does not find a people already 
prepared for self-government, will in no long time render 
them so. 

The general communication of the electoral privilege ban- 
ishes the distinction of patricians and plebeians — a distinc- 
tion which is quick in making its appearance, whenever it has 
any root in the laws. All the parts of society are thus com- 
bined into one firm and compact whole, and the strength and 
prosperity of the entire nation are proportionally augmented. 
On the other hand, where the right is very much restricted, 
two forces in the state are placed in opposition to each other : 
the legal and natural majority ; the one conscious of the right, 
the other of power. The country is then sure to be torn by 



CHAP. VI.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



125 



intestine divisions — divisions not created by a difference of 
opinion as to the ordinary measures of administration, which 
may follow one direction or another, without much affecting 
the public welfare; but divisions which are of fundamental 
import, as pertaining to the rights of the people, and the pre- 
rogatives of the government. It is not surprising, therefore, 
that even the extreme into which the people of the United 
States have run, of introducing universal suffrage, or nearly 
so, so far from destroying the public happiness, as was pre- 
dicted, has been chiefly instrumental in promoting it. The 
natural and the legal majority being rendered identical, the 
surface of society is frequently ruffled, but the existence of 
the institution, is no longer jeopardized. 

Third. It is a striking characteristic of human nature, that 
whatever is rendered common and familiar, loses on that very 
account its power over the imagination. Our feelings may be 
ever so much interested in the pursuit of an object, yet no 
sooner is it fairly attained than the charm of novelty begins 
to subside. The mind which was before tossed by contrary 
hopes and fears, recovers its composure, and a state approach, 
ing even to indifference sometimes succeeds to one of excite- 
ment. This is as true in the world of politics as in any other 
human concern. The same hopes and affections are set in 
motion in both, and they are liable therefore to be raised and 
depressed by the same causes. A privilege which, before it 
was granted was viewed as a mark of distinction, is deprived 
of a good deal of its attraction, when it is shared by millions. 

The European governments discover the greatest alarm, 
and the mo^t unreasonable timidity, whenever the subject of 
popular rights is touched. But we are not authorized to be- 
lieve that there is so much danger to the political institutions 
from that quarter, when there is the fact staring us in the face, 
and which no one can gainsay, that those governments which 
have extended the sphere of popular rights the farthest, are 
the best administered, and are at the same time favored with 
the greatest degree of public tranquility. I would say to all 
those governments, if you are afraid of the temper and dispo- 
sition of a people which is fast growing into manhood — if you 
feel alarmed at the intelligence and consequent weight which 
the people are everywhere acquiring, make haste to avert the 



126 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



mischiefs which are brooding over society, by imparting to 
them as large an amount of freedom as is practicable. Make 
what is now a privilege and distinction, the common property 
of a great number; it will then become cheap, common, and 
familiar. A state of popular excitement will not be perpetually 
kept up, and society will in no long time accommodate itself to 
the change. There is no difference, by nature, between Ameri- 
cans and the people of other countries ; for the former were 
themselves Europeans originally. Their institutions have 
made them what they now are. 

The electoral franchise has effected this important revolu- 
tion in human affairs. Public measures are no longer decided 
upon the field of battle; hostile armies are now converted 
into political parties ; and military captains into civil leaders. 
Changes in the public administration, which years of civil war 
were unable to accomplish, are now brought about, silently, 
and imperceptibly, by the agency of the ballot box. If few 
are aware of the value of the mighty change which has taken 
place, or even of its existence, it is in consequence of causes 
to which I have already referred. Men cease to be moved by 
what has become the settled order of society. 

But there is another benefit which the general possession 
of the privilege will confer. A people who enjoy a long 
period of uninterrupted prosperity, are apt to become slothful 
and effeminate. The exercise of political privileges, by open- 
ing an arena for the operation of parties on the largest possi- 
ble scale, keeps the minds of men in constant activity, and 
wards off the approach of that listlessness and decay, which 
have hitherto been the bane of society, when it has attained 
a very high civilization. 

There is this advantage from founding government upon 
the will of the majority ; that if alterations are afterwards 
found expedient, they will all originate with the same power. 
It is possible, that at some distant period, the public weal in 
the United States may require some modification of the right of 
suffrage. The true maxim in a republic is, that every right 
should be placed in subordination to the general welfare. If 
then the right is ever restricted, the change will be attended 
by this important advantage. It will be brought about with 



CHAP. VI- ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



127 



the consent of a majority of the people. This differs the 
institution fundamentally from what it is anywhere else. 

It is not the mere abstract limitation of the right which is 
to be complained of. For none but males are now admitted ; 
and as to them the age of twenty-one is arbitrarily fixed upon 
as the commencement of the right. It is the restriction of 
the privilege by a section of the community (as in the Euro- 
pean governments,) which constitutes the chief ground of ob- 
jection. It is remarkable that the Americans have constantly 
adhered to the principle, that some other qualification than 
mere citizenship, or residence, is necessary in municipal elec- 
tions. A property qualification of some kind, is uniformly 
imposed in this instance. This is not only the case in the 
large cities ; it is the general rule in all the smaller towns 
which are scattered over the country. If, therefore, it shall 
ever be deemed wise to impose a limitation upon the right of 
voting at the general elections, the transition will not be a 
violent one. It will simply be the application of a principle 
in one form, to which, in another, the public is already habit- 
uated. Doubtless the qualification exacted at all charter 
elections interferes as much with the abstract principle of 
equal rights, as would a similar restriction imposed upon the 
general voter. Yet there is, at present, a very general con- 
viction of the propriety of the rule in the former case. 

As to the mode of collecting the suffrages of the people, 
whether it should be " viva voce," or by ballot, I do not be- 
lieve that the question is of so much importance as is gener- 
ally supposed. In the early history of most communities, the 
former was probably the practice. But this was owing to the 
inability to write, rather than to the simplicity of the man- 
ners. It is rarely a secret how any one votes, when the elec- 
tion is by ballot. Free institutions throw open the windows 
of society so wide as to unveil all political transactions. In 
the United States, the vote of every elector in a county has 
been sometimes calculated with absolute precision before 
hand. Cicero laments the disuse of the "viva voce" vote in 
his time. But in a period of deep gloom and adversity, such 
as existed when he wrote, the mind which is laboring under 
its depressing influence will lay hold of any circumstance, to 
give color to its apprehensions. The ballot does not render 



128 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book l 



the vote of any one a secret; while at the same time, it has 
this eminent advantage, that an election becomes less noisy 
and tumultuous in consequence. It is made to resemble the 
quiet and orderly transaction of private business. 

When the electors are very numerous, it is fortunately im- 
practicable to organize them on the plan adopted in France. 
There the electors form themselves into what are denominated 
colleges, into which no one not privileged to vote is admitted. 
The elections are thus freed from violence, but tbey are 
shrouded in darkness, and are therefore subjected to the most 
sinister influence. Until 1830, the presidents of these colleges 
were nominated by the king — a circumstance which was un- 
derstood to give them a decided advantage, if they were 
themselves candidates; so sadly does a monarchical govern- 
ment disfigure free institutions, whenever it attempts to imi- 
tate them. 

The intermediate vote has been a favorite with some very 
able writers. Mr. Hume proposes it in his plan of a republic. 
The experiment has been made in France, on a more extended 
scale than was ever attempted in any other country. At one 
time, two intermediate bodies were interposed between the 
primary electors and the candidates, so that three successive 
elections, by as many different bodies, each diminishing in 
number, were necessary to the election of the legislative body. 
The whole plan, however, was abandoned in 1817. In the 
United States, a scheme in some respects similar, has been 
adopted in the election of the president and senators ; and in 
most of the state governments, in the election of judges, and 
a few of the administrative officers. But in France, not only 
were members of the legislature elected by the intermediate 
vote, but what was infinitely worse, the electoral colleges who 
chose them were constituted for life. The small number of 
persons composing them, together with the permanent tenure 
of their office, rendered these colleges mere aristocratic bodies. 

The election laws of France were at one time disfigured by 
another deformity. All those who paid a certain amount of 
taxes, — seven hundred francs I think, — were entitled to vote 
twice. In Great Britain the double, and even the triple vote 
is allowed ; but it stands on a slightly different footing. In 
France, the same elector might vote twice for a member of the 



CHAP. VI.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



129 



chamber of deputies. In Great Britian, the same elector can- 
Dot vote twice in the same county ; but he may vote in differ- 
ent counties, if he has land of sufficient value in each. He 
may vote twice, and even oftener, for different members of 
the house of commons. All such schemes are entirely incon- 
sistent with the genuine spirit of free institutions : and only 
serve to stave off, or to hasten the day, which sooner or later 
will come, when a more just system will be established. In- 
deed, in France the plan has already been established. In 
Great Britain it stands, notwithstanding the reform act of 
1832. 

It is a most valuable provision in the American laws, that 
the elections are held in townships, or parishes. This con- 
tributes mightily to break the force of party spirit. The plan 
has been recently imitated in Great Britain. Formerly, the 
elections were held at but one place in each county. It is 
now held at several places. A similar arrangement has also 
been adopted in France. Instead of the elections being held 
by departments, they are held in the smaller subdivision of 
" arrondissements." The British and French plans are still 
imperfect. The American is thorough, and goes directly to 
its object. In Europe, the plan is to diuiinish the number of 
electors, instead of multiplying the places of election. 

There is another difference between the British, and French, 
and the American elections. In Great Britian the polls were 
kept open for an indefinite period. In the celebrated West- 
minster election, when Mr. Fox lost his seat, they were open 
for six weeks ; and were then closed only because the session 
of parliament commenced. The period is now restricted to 
one day in cities and boroughs, and. to two in counties. In 
France, an election continues six days. Iu America, the polls 
are generally closed in one day, and nothing is more remark- 
able than the universal calm which immediately succeeds. 
The elections in America may be said to exhibit the extraor- 
dinary spectacle of prodigious excitement, in the midst of the 
profoundest tranquility. 
9 



130 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book i 



CHAPTER VII. 

■ THE ELECTION OF THE PUBLIC OFFICERS. 

There is one property peculiar to representative govern- 
ments, which I do not remember to have seen noticed. It 
doubles the responsibility of the' public agents. The persons 
who are elected to office feel a general responsibility in common 
with their constituents; because the interests of both are sub- 
stantially the same, and they feel an additional responsibilty, 
in consequence of the station which they are selected to fill. 
An association of individuals, acting in common for their mu 
tual advantage, are compelled to listen to some other motives 
than self-interest; otherwise it would not be true that they 
acted in common. But the moment it is decided that all pub- 
lic measures shall be managed by deputies, instead of by the 
people in person, a new and very important element is intro- 
duced into the government. The incentives to good conduct 
on the part of the representative are increased. The very self- 
interest, which before stood in the way of each one acting 
effectually for the public good, is made to operate advantage- 
ously upon the officer. He is no longer confounded with the 
crowd. He stands out to public view as one selected to dis- 
charge important duties. His constituents expect something 
more from him, than they do from themselves; and his con- 
duct is obliged to be more prudent and circumspect than it 
would otherwise be. 

The corrupting influence of office has often been taken notice 
of. But it may be made to have a directly opposite effect. I 
have in repeated instances known individuals to make use of 
untiring efforts to obtain some public trust, the duties of 
which consisted in the most laborious drudgery— in the per- 
formance of a mere round of clerical duties ; and I have ob- 
served them closely, after their object was attained. To see 
the singleness of purpose, and the indefatigable industry, 
which they applied to their new occupation, one would sup- 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



131 



pose that they had made discovery of some inexhaustible 
source of enjoyment, which was unknown to any one else. 
Before they were chosen, their conduct seemed to be without 
any definite aim. It was a bundle of expedients ; not a sys- 
tem of action. They were not only not distinguished for in- 
telligence, industry, or sobriety of demeanor ; but seemed to 
be absolutely deficient in all. As soon as the public confi- 
dence was held out to them, all these qualities were suddenly 
waked up, and they were transformed into active and valuable 
citizens. In most countries, the greater part of these individ- 
uals would have been cut off from all opportunity of obtaining 
office. They would have occupied the place of passive citizens 
merely ; and not even have been admitted to the exercise of the 
electoral franchise. Thus, the extreme liberty which represen- 
tative government imparts to the population, carries along with 
it its own correction. Of all governments it is the one which 
creates, if I may use the expression, the greatest amount of 
business transactions ; and it is, therefore, the one which de- 
mauds the greatest amount of business talent and industry. 

It is very true that the separate interest which a public 
officer feels in the emolument aud influence which office be- 
stows, may be so much enhanced, as entirely to outweigh the 
interest which he has in the public welfare. The way to cure 
this defect is to distribute power as widely as possible ; to 
assign moderate salaries to every place, and to limit the dura- 
tion of office. The distribution of power, by calling into 
requisition the abilities of a large proportion of the popula- 
tion, prevents any one from acquiring undue influence: and 
by joining effective labor to almost every public employment, 
identifies the interest of the public with those of the officer. 

The ancients never made a full discovery of the principle of 
representation ; and accordingly, their application of it was 
very feeble. The Eoman commonwealth had recourse to an- 
other principle in the constitution of its legislative assemblies. 
Men were arranged into distinct orders ; and the votes were 
taken by classes, instead of "per capita." 

Thus where a modern republic is chiefly intent on melting 
down the inequalities of different parts of the society, by es- 
tablishing the principle of representation, an ancient republic 
endeavored to perpetuate them by giving them full play. 



132 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book L 



There is hardly an instance in antiquity, of a legislative body 
which was elected. The senate of Athens may be an excep- 
tion, though that is a question which is involved in great ob 
scurity. In the Roman commonwealth, the comitia of the 
centuries, and of the tribes, constituted, at successive periods, 
the real legislature. The senate was regarded in the light of 
an executive magistracy, and the members who composed it, 
although they were elected by the people, duriDg the latter 
half of the republic, were not elected to the senate. They 
had previously been chosen to some other office, and by virtue 
<of this choice became senators for life. 

The elective principle however, was thoroughly practiced 
upon in framing the executive department. In the modern 
European states, the rule is reversed. The legislature, or one 
chamber, is elected, while the executive is an hereditary magis- 
trate, and the judicial and all the subordinate administrative 
officers are appointed by him. The United States is the only 
country where the principle of representation has been intro- 
duced into every department of the government. 

To procure an upright and enlightend appointing power is 
the -chief desideratum in the formation of a commonwealth. 
It is the final aim of all government ; and all other devices are 
but means to the attainment of it. In Great Britain, this 
power is nominally a prerogative of the crown ; in practice, it 
is exercised by the minister, or some other public officer. 
Thus all the puisne judges are appointed by the chancellor; 
and it has been observed by an eminent English writer, that 
the fitness of the persons thus selected, is "not only unques- 
tioned, but unquestionable." It was a maxim of the Fiench 
economists, that a legal despotism, if it were practicable, 
would be the best form of government. That is, the uncon- 
trolled authority of one man, of the greatest wisdom and vir- 
tue, would conduce better than all other political contrivances, 
to the attainment of public felicity. But if we were able to 
find one such man in society, we should for the same reason, 
be able to find a great many otliers. The diversities of human 
character, great as they are, cannot, in the nature ot things, 
be pushed to such an extreme as to present us with one indi- 
vidual, rising supremely in virtue and intelligence, above all 
others. We might therefore, with much more reason, desire 



CHAP. VII. ] 



OF FK-EE INSTITUTIONS. 



133 



that a great number of the citizens possessed these endow- 
ments; for although the wish would be as unavailing in the 
one case as in the other, the object of both is equally possible, 
while the last would indicate a more exact and comprehensive 
notion of the ends of civil government. 

One reason why the selections by the English Chancellor 
are so good, is because that officer is not lifted so high as to 
be insensible to the influence of public opinion, and yet is so 
independent as to be able to resist the aberrations to which 
public opinion is occasionally liable. In a republic it is im- 
possible to make such a disposition of the appointing power. 
The arrangement is an artificial and accidental one, and can- 
not be introduced in such a government without subverting 
its foundation. It is not merely because the character of the 
chancellor depends upon that of the Prince, and that of the 
Prince upon chance ; nor that the existence of such an officer 
would be a solecism in a republic : it would frustrate one of 
the great ends in the formation of a commonwealth, which, is 
to identify the administration of government with the inter- 
ests of the people, and so to discipline them by an actual ex- 
perience of this connection, that the appointing power may be 
freed, not for a season, but forever, from the caprice of an in- 
dividual. It is not uncommon in a monarchy to find the civil 
rights of ths citizens well guarded, although the political 
abuses are both flagrant and numerous. An assiduous care 
for some of our interests frequently withdraw the mind from 
hardships and grievances of greater magnitude. 

How to constitute the appointing power is then a question 
of the deepest interest in representative government. There 
are two ends which we desire to attain : one, to make govern- 
ment an institution for the common weal ; the other, to render 
public opinion as nearly conformable as possible with the pub- 
lic reason ; that is, to reflect what we may suppose to be the 
most enlightened views with regard to the common interests. 
These two ends are not easily reconciled ; for government can- 
not be made an institution for the common benefit, uuless the 
people participate in it. Their exclusion, and the confinement 
of the political power to a comparatively small number, will 
be followed, in the first instance, by a careless regard to their 
interests, and will lead by successive steps to a fixed design to 



134 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book i. 



build up an authority so independent as to be inaccessible to 
attack, or observation. On the other hand, if public opinion, 
which sets government in motion, is not a reasonable and well 
informed one, the interests of the community may be sacri- 
ficed, whatever may be the share which the people may have 
in the direction of public affairs. These are the difficulties of 
the problem. We want government to be instituted and ad- 
ministered, by the majority; and yet we want public opinion, 
which reflects the sentiments of that majority, to be both vigi- 
lant and enlightened. If we say that the people are unfit to 
exercise the appointing power directly, and confide it to the 
executive, or the executive and senate, or the legislative body, 
the dangers will be only apparently lessened ; for all these 
magistrates are themselves elected by the people, and will par- 
take more or less of the same character. 

Is there then any impossibility in the nature of tilings, any 
impossibility under all circumstances and conditions of society, 
in causing public opinion and the public reason, to be iu con- 
formity with each other. 1st. There is a very perceptible ten 
dency towards something of this sort, even in communities 
which are not the best regulated. This arises from a principle 
of human nature, and is not at all dependent upon the me- 
chanism of government. The most uncultivated men form to 
themselves a standard of excellence which they cling to until 
that period of life when the passions are silenced, and their 
conduct and actions become less dangerous to society. It is 
for this reason, that society everywhere exhibits a principle of 
progress, and never of retrogradation. 2d. This feeling is so 
spontaneous, and so little under the command of the will, that 
it disposes the bulk of the population to look up to, and to 
defer to the opinions of the superior classes. The ideal which 
is floating in the minds of the uncultivated, although not real- 
ized in themselves, is able to find a visible representative iu 
some other part of society. The operation of these principles, 
as they lie at the foundation of all human improvement, lie 
also at the foundation of all the institutions of government. 
Let any one try, if he can, to worship ignorance and depravity : 
he will find it impossible, even if he is himself ignorant and 
depraved. Let any one in the most obscure walks of life in- 
quire what has induced him, by daily toil and labor, to better 



CHAP VII.] 



OF PR EE INSTITUTIONS. 



135 



his physical condition : he will find that there has been a con- 
stant, though vague desire, to get beyond the narrow circle iu 
which his physical wants are enclosed ; hence the strong de- 
sire, the homely pride of the uncultivated, to lift their off- 
spring, by education, above their own level. 3d. Without 
pretending to assert that there is no condition of society iu 
which the two difficulties I have mentioned cannot be recon- 
ciled, we may at least affirm, that if there is a country in which 
knowledge and property are widely dispersed, in which conse- 
quently private and public interests are nearly identified, and 
the selfish affections do not swallow up the man, the problem 
can hardly be considered as insoluble. For, conditions of so- 
ciety which differ from each other, cannot afford the same re- 
sults; if they did, they would not be different, but similar 
states of society. Spain and Portugal, Naples and Russia, 
exhibit a social organization entirely variant from that of the 
United States or Great Britain. It is only by ruminatiug on 
the things in which they agree, and leaving out those in which 
they differ, that the judgment is confused. The institutions'of 
the two last countries are obliged to be different, in character, 
from those of the first, by a principle no stronger than that 
which links the effect to its cause. 

• In what way is public opinion formed'? The groundwork is 
to be found in the principle I have already noticed : the stand- 
ard of action which every one, high and low, forms to himself, 
and which always rises higher than his own conduct. Hence 
it is not true, that none but the enlightened contribute to the 
for mation of public opinion. The uneducated have a share in 
it, for all the fundamental notions of morality are as strongly im- 
pressed upon them as upon the superior classes; and the hered- 
itary monarch is visibly influenced, though never directly 
governed, by the opinions which pervade his peasantry. But 
public opinion, when it comes to be applied to the affairs of 
an extensive, wealthy and* densely peopled community, be- 
comes a very complicated organ ; for although it reposes upon 
a few simple principles, these become greatly diversified in a 
highly civilized state. In such a state, public opinion may be 
defined to be the judgment which is formed concerning the 
rights, duties, and interests of the population iu relation to 
the government, of the government of the population, and of 



136 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[BOOK L 



the citizens to one another. If there is great diversity in the 
condition of the various classes, those rights, duties and in- 
terests will be seen under very different aspects, and there 
cannot, properly speaking, be any such thing as a public opin- 
ion. The term public reason will be employed to denote that 
there is another tribunal of still higher authority, although it 
may reflect the sentiments of a comparatively small part of 
the population. If, on the other hand, knowledge and prop- 
erty are pretty equally distributed, public opinion will not 
diverge materially from what is denominated the public rea- 
son. The diffusion of property alone may have had this effect. 
For what is a consequence of a diffusion of property? It is 
to produce habits of business, industry, judgment and reflec- 
tion in the management of property; and the very means by 
which private comfort is attained, contribute to discipline the 
understandings of the great majority of the population. 

Notwithstanding these views, the subject still seems to be 
full of difficulty. The beings we meet on the highway, the 
operatives, common laborers, and menial servants, seem to be 
incapacitated by nature, or by circumstances as strong as 
nature, from forming the most general notions of the end of 
government, even so far as their own interests are concerned. 
But these beings have, wsince the foundation of the American, 
commonwealth, actually taken part in the election of the exec- 
utive, and of both branches of the legislatures. The American 
legislatures are all elected by universal suffrage, or by a rule 
nearly equivalent to it. On entering these assemblies, an un- 
practiced eye will be startled with the boorishness and appar- 
ent ignorance of many of the members; a calm observer will 
see nothing inconsistent with a skillful and orderly manage- 
ment of the public business, and a well informed one will 
recollect that the compo ition of these bodies is infinitely 
better than was that of the provincial estates, or even of the 
states general of France, and better than that of the English 
Parliament before the commencement of the eighteenth cen- 
tury. That there are great differences in the capacities of the 
members who compose the American legislatures, is certain. 
How then, is business conducted with regularity ? How are 
laws passed to meet the complicated exigencies of such wealthy 
and populous communities? That they are so framed, is mat- 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



137 



ter of notoriety. For if we examine the codes of those states, 
whether criminal, civil, or political, we will find that they make 
a more wise, exact and judicious provision for the wants of all 
classes, than is to be found anywhere else. If these codes 
were imitations of those of older nations, the difficulty would 
not be removed ; for great skill would be requisite in making 
the proper selection. But when it is considered that there are 
great departures from any existing code, and that these are 
every year becoming wider, that experience is the foundation 
on which these laws are built, the difficulty is increased. He 
who can collect experience into a body, and decipher its true 
meaning, is the wisest man. If we admit then, that a consid- 
erable proportion of those who compose these legislatures, are 
incompetent to frame the laws, would it be an extraordinary 
circumstance that the smaller number who are able, should 
execute the task. Does any one at all acquainted with human 
nature expect to find a legislative body, however constituted, 
materially varying from this description. It is the character 
of both the English Chambers, the Lords, and Commons; that 
is, it is the character of those very bodies, which might seem 
worthy of imitation, if the elective principle which prevails in 
a republic was abaudoned, not one-fourth of the English Peers, 
or Commons, is able to grapple with the perplexing questions 
of foreign or internal policy which are submitted to them. 

It appears, then, that there is a principle of human nature, 
by which, when a number of persons are assembled to transact 
any important business, the task will be voluntarily yielded 
to those who have most skill and ability ; although it will by 
no means follow, that the presence of those who are deficient 
in these qualities can be dispensed with. 

The application of these views to the electors — the class who 
choose the public officers, is obvious. The same result will 
take place as in a legislative body. Those who are incapable 
of forming a clear estimate of the part they are called upon to 
perform, will be counselled and controlled by those of more 
intelligence, although it must not be inferred that the privilege 
should be confined to the last. Parents advise and guide their 
children, but the conduct of the parent, as well as of the child, 
is better on that very account. It is true, the electors are not 
collected into one body, like a legislative assembly, and can- 



138 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book i. 



not act so directly upon one another. But they are parcelled 
into families, neighborhoods, and townships, and this presents 
the same, or even a more advantageous mode of communica- 
tion. Admitting, then, that among the common people the 
proportion of those who are capable of voting understandiugly 
is only one to ten, that one will exert a marked influence. 
And how is it with the superior ranks: the proportion is not 
greater; for if an humble condition of life rears rough and 
ignorant men, wealth rears feeble and effeminate ones. Thus 
the majority in each class is powerfully acted upon by a small 
number. That the superior knowledge of the few will some- 
times be turned to sinister purposes is certain ; but this is a 
vice common to both classes, and does not interfere with the 
views I have taken. 

If the structure of society is such as to permit the establish- 
ment of representative government, no reason absolutely sat- 
isfactory can be assigned, why some public officers should be 
elected by direct suffrage, while others are chosen by a close 
body. If the principle of responsibility is the hinge on which 
republican government turns, it does not appear clear why a 
thorough application should be made of it in some instances, 
and an imperfect one in others. If the judges should be 
elected by a pre-existing body, it would not seem improper 
that the executive and legislative should be elected in the 
same way. 

It is curious to trace the changes which have taken place in 
the appointing power in the United States. At first it was 
conferred upon the governor alone, as it is at the present day 
in Delaware. The next step was to vest it in the governor 
and council; and a third was to entrust it to the governor 
and senate. The taking the power from the governor was the 
commencement of a very important revolution. It broke the 
connection between him and the various civil officers of the 
state. It discarded the idea that the appointing power was 
an attribute of the executive magistrate. The transition was 
gradual: a council was created, who divided the power with 
the executive. As the council was created for this express 
purpose, it may be said to have produced a new organization 
of the executive authority, and not merely a new disposition 
of the appointing power. The effect was to create a plural 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



139 



executive. In process of time, the power underwent a farther 
change : it was distributed among a greater number ; and this 
was important, as it gradually paved the way for more decisive 
changes, which the structure of society rendered necessary. 
The next step accordingly was to confer the power upon the 
governor and senate. This was a more decisive change; for 
it divided the power between the governor and one branch of 
the legislature. It repudiated the maxim, that the power was 
an attribute of the executive, whether the executive is a sin- 
gular or a plural body. The reason of the change is to be 
found in the fact, that in America, after the revolution, written 
constitutions were adopted. Writing teaches men to analyze 
their ideas, and causes their speculative opinions to correspond 
more exactly with the results of experience. By no device, 
could the authority of the governor of a state whose institu- 
tions were democratic, be made to resemble that of an hered- 
itary magistrate. The legislature became at once the most 
important and imposing of the three departments. The power 
of appointment was not, in the first instance, devolved upon 
the whole body, but only upon one branch. The successive 
steps were not a departure from this design, but in furtherance 
of it, and prepared the way for its final accomplishment. But 
who can teach us, how to create a governor and senate, which 
shall be a thoroughly upright, and impartial appointing power. 
Whether composed of illiterate, or educated men, it would be 
subject to the vice of intrigue. The only approach to such an 
institution, would be a body so permanent, and composed of 
members so affluent, as to render them inaccessible to the 
solicitations of unworthy candidates. But it would be only 
an approach, for no sooner was the system set in motion, than 
the body would degenerate into an aristocratic cabal ; an in- 
terest separate from that of the community would grow up, 
and offices would be disposed of by a system of favoritism. 
Eepresentatives will act more circumspect than their con- 
stituents, only when the trust confided to them does not 
present a powerful conflict between private and public interest. 
Do what we will, we cannot raise men so high by wealth, or 
station, as to render them wise and virtuous; but we may 
easily render them the reverse. 

The third step which was taken, was to devolve the power 



140 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book l* 



upon the entire legislature. This completed the design, which 
we may suppose to have been originally contemplated, which 
was to despoil the executive, not in part, but in whole of the 
attribute. The various civil magistrates then ceased to be his 
agents, and henceforward, held by a tenure as independent 
as his own. But the system, although relieved of one incon- 
sistency, fell into another equally glaring. If the appointing 
power is not an appropriate part of the executive authority, it 
is as little so of the legislative. By wresting the power from 
the governor, and lodging it successively with bodies more 
and more numerous, the selections were apparently at least of 
a more popular character, and an approach was made to that 
plan, to which everything was irresistibly tending, to wit : a 
direct appointment by the people. 

The chief objection to all the plans which preceded, is that 
they deprive us of the most effectual means of training the 
popular mind to self-government. Experience, personal expe- 
rience of the importance of correct appointments, of the con- 
nection between them and the public weal, is indispensable to 
fulfil not in theory merely, but in practice, the desigu of rep- 
resentative government. We desire to have a disinterested, 
and upright impartial appointing power. To procure that, is 
to procure everything. And we immediately set about devis- 
ing a scheme for excluding the bulk of the population ; in 
other words, we exclude those for whom government is made. 
In some conditions of society this may be necessary ; in others, 
the gradual transition from an appointment by a close body 
to a larger number, may facilitate the final transference of the 
power to the people themselves. But it is supposed, that it is 
impossible to get beyond one or two stages in this transition. 
The impossibility arises from perseverance in the plan of close 
appointment. By adhering to it inflexibly, we decree that it 
cannot be otherwise; we deprive ourselves of the only means 
of getting out of it. All knowledge is gained by experience : 
even that of a strictly speculative character, is confusedly ap- 
prehended, unless we apply our own faculties to the subjects 
we undertake to deal with. In the affairs of government, the 
proposition is true without any limitation. If the citizens 
have not a direct voice in the appointment of the public agents, 
they form a very inadequate notion of the purpose which those 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



141 



agents are intended to answer. They hear that certain func- 
tionaries are necessary, in order to administer to public affairs ; 
and they believe it, only because they are told so. They con- 
ceive government to be a species of self-moving machine; and 
although they are told that it is established to preside over 
their interests, they apprehend this only in a vague and general 
way. Appointmeuts are made, but as they are not made by 
themselves, they conceive that they have only an accidental 
connection with their interests, and that they have no control 
over that connection. Thus admitting that popular appoint- 
ments are practicable, they cannot be made so, unless the 
power is brought iuto exercise. The danger of acting precipi- 
tately is not so great as is imagined. In a state habituated 
to free institutions, it is very slight. It might be otherwise 
in one which did not possess this advantage. In the former, 
experience would afford the rule ; in the last, the rule would 
be the subject of conjecture. An enlightened ruler of one of 
the German principalities, visited the United States about 
1825, and was so struck with the reasonableness and good 
sense of confiding to the people the choice of those who make 
the laws, that he introduced an elective assembly into his do- 
minions. His people protested, that they were incompetent 
to the task. He persevered, however, well understanding no 
doubt, that the difficulties and exigencies of human life, are 
the true school of human conduct. In the United States, 
where a great fund of experience has been acquired, I would, 
if necessary, force the appointment of the judges upon the 
people. I may have misgivings, but they are no greater than 
I have for the result of any human contrivance, which has not 
been tested by actual experiment. 

It appears that in the United States, the plan of electing 
the judges by a close body was retained long after it had been 
abandoned in the election of the exective and administrative 
officers. There must be a reason for this. Jurists are accus- 
tomed to distinguish between the question of fact, and the 
question of right. An understanding of the first may shed 
light upon the last. In the American provinces, there was no 
order of nobility with which to compose a senate ; there were 
no materials for creating an hereditary executive. The coun- 
try, therefore, very naturally slid, after no long time, into a 



142 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



popular election of both. But the judges had always held for 
life ; and this circumstance withdrew them from the operation 
of the rule. The tenure for life had never been combined with 
a popular choice. The notion of responsibility is so closely 
connected with that of popular election, that the moment the 
last is introduced, it is united with a tenure for a term of 
years. The irregularity in the system continued in conse- 
sence of the extreme difficulty of overcoming the prejudice 
that the tenure of the judges must be for life. The governors 
had been generally appointed by the king; but there was now 
no king, and the senate had never been an hereditary body. 
Both chambers of the legislature therefore, were elected by 
the people. The governor was, with some exceptions, elected 
in the same manner; not universally, because a vague notion 
still lingered in some of the states, that a distinction must be 
made between his election and that of the legislative body. 

His appointment had originally been different, and this cir- 
cumstance contributed to keep alive the distinction. At pres- 
ent there is but one state in which he is chosen by the legis- 
lature. 

I have alluded to the remark of a very eminent statesman 
(Lord Brougham) that the appointments to the bench in Eng- 
land were unexceptionable. But the same statesman, in his 
celebrated speech on the reformation of the law, declares that 
"it is notorious, whenever a question comes before the tribu- 
nals, upon a prosecution for libel, or any other political matter, 
the counsel at their meeting take for granted that they can 
tell pretty accurately the leaning of the court, and predict ex- 
actly which way the consultation of the judges will terminate.'" 
I doubt whether a like character can be given of the adminis- 
tration of justice in the higher tribunals of the United States, 
in those whose jurisdiction resembles that ot the king's bench 
and common pleas. And I am pursuaded that where this 
habitual bias exists, it must more or less, affect the decision 
of those civil controversies, in which the parties are of differ- 
ent political opinions. The same very able statesman speaks of 
"the incompetent judges," and "slovenly admistration of jus- 
tice," as these are spoken of in the United States, in reference 
to some of the judges of subordinate courts. In England, 
until 1809, no judge could hold court in the county in which 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



143 



be resided. In the United States, where no such prohibition 
ever existed, the judges often voluntarily decline sitting in 
their own county, lest an unfavorable influence might be exer- 
cised upon them. The "black book" confirms the observa- 
tions of Lord Brougham. It informs us that a tory ministry 
never selects a judge from the whig party, nor a whig ministry 
one from the tory party. This, the author remarks, " tends to 
lower the character of the judges in public estimation, by 
clearly evinciug that politics, as well as legal fitness, have a 
share in ministerial promotion. It also instills into the minds 
of expectant judges, and of men already on the bench, a party 
feeling, fatal to strict j ustice, on political questions." An elec- 
tion for a limited time, diminishes the temptation to run into the 
excesses of party. The prize is not of sufficient magnitude to 
overcome the natural sentiments of justice, which, in order to 
have fu|l play, only require that there should be no powerful 
provocative to depart from them. The judge elected for a 
term of years, balances in his mind the uncertain advantage 
of retaining his place agaiust the permanent advantage of 
maintaining bis character. It does not follow, that he will be 
re-elected, even if his party should continue in power. The 
principle of rotation in office, never fails to exercise great in- 
fluence in a democratic community, and it reduces the tenure 
of office to a mere contingency. If the public officers were 
appointed for life, the prejudices which they originally con- 
tracted, would cling to them without any countervailing mo- 
tives to moderate them. Thus an election by the people, a 
tenure for a term of years, and rotation in office, which might 
be supposed to push the democratic principle to its furthest 
extreme, are the most efficacious means for restraining its dis- 
orders, and for giving to public opinion a more just, active, 
and pervading influence. The legal ability which fits a man 
for the bench, is very capable of being estimated by the gen- 
erality of mankind. The capacity of the physician is much 
more a secret, and yet no one, in any condition of life, is at a loss 
to employ one eminent in that profession. Many may be unable 
to pay the best ; but who the best are is a matter of notoriety 
in every town or neighborhood in which they reside. And for 
more obvious reasons, this is the case of the lawyer. 

As the connection between the interests of the great bulk 



144 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



of the population, and the behavior of all public officers, is 
very close, it would be a grand desideratum to establish a 
thorough intercourse between candidates and constituents. 
Men of elevated character, now recoil from any thing which 
might seem to have the appearance of soliciting for office. 
But I observe in some parts of the country, a corresponding 
v disposition on the part of the people, an aversion to be caressed 

and tampered with by the demagogue. "I do not know (said 
a mechanic in one of our southern cities) what these candi- 
dates propose to themselves, in paying such assiduous court 
to us the people. It will not deter us from exercising our judg- 
ment, but it may deprive them of our vote." I predict that 
the reaction of public men on the one hand, and of popular 
sentiment on the other, will give rise to a more healthful 
public opinion than formerly existed, and that the intercourse 
of the two classes will be of a more rational character. This 
would complete the^security for the preservation of free insti- 
tutions. 

We may refer to an example, which has only a partial ap- 
plication to the United States, but which is not the less 
instructive on that account. The remaikable solidity of the 
Venetian government, enduring as it did for a thousand years, 
is attributable to a circumstance which was peculiar to it 
among the other Italian states. The Venetian nobles en- 
grossed the whole power, but they had no possessions on 
the mainland, no castles and strong fortresses in the country. 
They were shut up in a city built upon islands ; in close con- 
tact, therefore, and under the constant observation of the 
other class. They were unable to keep on foot large armies, 
to wreak their vengeance on each other, or to battle with the 
plebeians, as the nobles of Milan, Genoa, and Florence, were 
accustomed to do. The disadvantage of their position, led 
them to cultivate the good will of the plebeians, who Were 
accordingly governed with more equity and moderation than 
in any other Italian state. Very similar causes, although 
operating on a vast and comrjreheusive scale, give stability to 
the American republics. There is no political aristocracy, no 
baronies, no military retainers; the civil aristocracy are mixed 
indiscriminately, or, to repeat the expression, are shut up with 
the other classes, and are both constrained, and disposed to 
consult their interests. 



CHAP. VII. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



145 



A property qualification for office has been retained in some 
of the American states, even where it has been abolished in 
regard to the electors. In the Athenian constitution, this 
species of qualification was at one period dispensed with, except 
where the office involved a pecuniary responsibility. In the 
United States, the rule is reversed. Property qualification is 
in some States required, to entitle to a seat in the legislative 
body, when it is not demanded of the administrative officers. 
But in the place of that qualification, another requisite, much 
more effectual, is substituted. The officer must give security 
for his fidelity in office. This reconciles the claims of the rich 
and the poor, and at the same time attracts to the public ser- 
vice the talents and industry of all orders of men. 

In England, knights of the shire originally represented the 
county, in the house of commons. They were the lesser barons 
— in other words, an inferior order of nobility. And although 
this chamber is no longer modeled upon that plan, a property 
qualification is still required of candidates. But, by the act 
of 1838, this may be either of personal or real property. 

It is a great objection to a high property qalification, that it 
confines the competition for office to the rich exclusively. The 
rich only can afford to practice bribery; and hence the Eug- 
lish elections have been corrupt to a degree utterly unknown 
in the United States. Thus, this remarkable consequence, 
and one not at all calculated upon, has taken place, that in 
those countries, where eligibility to office, as well as the elec- 
toral franchise, have been most restricted, the greatest cor- 
ruption and licentiousness have prevailed ; and where both 
have been thrown open to nearly the whole population, the elec- 
tions are the most orderly, and the most free from sinister in- 
fluence. The rich will forever put forth the lower qualities of 
human nature, unless they are controlled by those who are 
placed in circumstances of less temptation. A rich man going 
to attend an election where none but rich men can elect, or be 
elected, is like the twenty thousand nobles who used to march 
upon Warsaw to choose a chief magistrate. The extreme va- 
riety which characterizes the pursuits of the Americans, the 
diffusion of education, the unobstructed intercourse of all 
classes, and above all, the operation of the institutions them- 
10 



146 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book i. 



selves, disperse knowledge in every direction, and render the 
property qualification useless. 

The duration of the term of office is a matter of still graver 
consideration. It is indispensable to the faithful administra- 
tion of the government, that responsibility should be a vital 
and active principle, not a mere form. And the only way to 
accomplish this is by guarding against a too permanent tenure 
of office. Those are the wisest institutions which render it 
the interest of the officer to consult the public good. A sys- 
tem which succeeds in reconciling these two apparently con- 
tradictory things, is well calculated to beget habits of rectitude 
and good conduct, which a mere conviction of the propriety 
of such habits would be insufficient to instill. And it then 
becomes as difficult to lay down these habits as it was origi- 
nally to take them up. Doubtless there is an intrinsic con- 
nection between morality and self interest. All the seeming 
exceptions to this rule arise either from some disturbing in- 
fluence to the conduct of the individual who is called upon to 
act, and to which he is not a party, or else they arise from 
self-interest not being properly understood. That scheme of 
government, therefore, which endeavors as well as it can to 
combine duty with interest, conforms best to the original de- 
sign of our nature, and tends greatly to the preservation of 
public morality. 

It may be supposed, if the duration of office is short, that 
it will lead to instability in the public councils. But there is 
such a thing as too great stability, as well as too great insta- 
bility, in government. This may seem to be a paradox, and 
therefore requires explanation. A government, in order to 
pursue any plan of public policy with constancy and vigor, 
must be invested with power. But power is of two kinds, 
personal and political, and the last may be raised to so high a 
degree as to be transformed into the former — to become, in 
other words, a mere personal authority in the chief of the 
state. Nevertheless, all public measures will be characterized 
by the greatest stability and uniformity. There is more sim- 
plicity in the management of public affairs, fewer cross-pur- 
poses to overcome, where government is at liberty to consult 
its own separate interests, thau where it is employed in ad- 
ministering the vast and complicated interests of a tree and 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



147 



intelligent people. In one sense, the governments of Bussia, 
Prussia and Austria possess this property of stability in a 
pre eminent degree. The monarchs of these countries wield 
an independent authority. No obstacle stands in the way of 
their designs, so long as they keep within tolerably reasonable 
bounds. There is a singleness of plan, an unity of purpose, 
belonging to such governments, which cannot in the nature 
of things be possessed by one into which the popular element 
is infused. Thus in Great Britain, where the political power 
of the community is shared to a considerable extent by repre- 
sentatives of the people, public measures vary more than they 
do in the governments of eastern Europe. And yet, in an- 
other and still higher sense of the word, the government of 
Great Britain does undoubtedly possess more stability than 
any European government of ancient or modern times. The 
stability of power and the stability of the government are, 
therefore, by no means the same thing. The changes of ad- 
ministration, and the changes of public men, in Great Britain 
and the United States, are more frequent than anywhere else, 
and yet the institutions possess greater stability than do those 
of any other country; and they possess it in consequence of, 
and not in spite of these changes. 

The enjoyment of an independent authority by public rulers 
has been the principal incentive to all the criminal enterprises 
which have ever afflicted society. From time immemorial, 
power has been firmly secured in the kings and nobility, who 
have ruled the European states; and the consequence is, that 
from the Christian era, down to the peace of 1815, Europe was 
the theater of the most atrocious and sanguinary wars. Since 
this last period, the popular power, the real effective public 
opinion in Great Britain, has at least doubled. The public 
weal has therefore greater firmness and consistency, notwith- 
standing the changes of administration have been more fre- 
quent than before. If the president of the United States, and 
the members of the senate, were hereditary officers, and the 
house of representatives elected for a long term, it is more 
than probable that America would have embarked in frequent 
wars, when experience has demonstrated that the prosperity 
of the country demands that peace should be its permanent 
policy. And the vigor with which warlike enterprises would 



148 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book l 



have been prosecuted, would have impressed upon the gov- 
ernment precisely that character of stability which is so much 
admired by unthinking individuals. A system which was 
even productive of considerable instability in the ordinary 
measures of government, would be greatly preferable to this. 
It would protect the state from infinitely worse mischiefs. 
The Americans, like most people who enjoy an uncommon 
share of prosperity, frequently complain of the fluctuation in 
the public measures. They complain, because they are not 
able to grasp all the minor as well as the more important ad- 
vantages of fortune. 

The compensation afforded to the public officers should be 
sufficient to insure competent ability, and should not go be- 
yond this. High salaries create a separate interest in the 
office, independent of the interests of the people. On the 
other hand, low salaries render officers careless in the dis- 
charge of their duties, and the people, themselves, become 
.gradually reconciled to a feeble and bungling administration 
-of the laws, when they know that the reproach lies at their 
own door. The legislator, therefore, must have sufficient 
judgment to strike a mean between the two things. Moderate 
salaries are one means of enforcing responsibility. And as 
this is the hinge on which free institutions turn, it is fit that 
we should avail ourselves of every device which is calculated 
to give strength to it. Moreover, moderate salaries enlist in 
the service of the State the abilities of persons in the middle 
walks of life. As the rich can best afford to dispense with a 
high reward, it might be supposed that this plan would cause 
them to be the principal candidates for office. But such is not 
the case. Moderate salaries chill and enfeeble their ambition ; 
they do not gratify the ardent and impatient desires of the 
rich. But they contribute to raise solid usefulness from ob- 
scurity; and the officer who obtains an important post, finds 
himself disabled in every effort he makes to leap beyond the 
bounds of his legitimate authority. In the United States, far 
the greater part of all public employments are filled by men 
in moderate circumstances. 

The number, as well as the nature, of the public offices in a 
republic, will depend upon the fact, whether it constitutes one 
aggregate community, or has the form of a confederate gov 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



149 



ernment. I say the form, because in every extensive and 
populous state, it would be of the highest advantage to imi- 
tate the plan of domestic or local jurisdictions, even though 
the government is not composed of states which were origi- 
nally distinct and independent. 

A territorial division of the state, of some sort, is an ar- 
rangement known to every civilized nation. Even the most 
centralized government cannot dispense with it, since it is the 
only way by which the public authority can be present every- 
where at the same time. The principle on which the division 
was originally founded, was very different from what it is now. 
Most of tlie European states were at one time divided into 
feudal baronies. These inferior governments have long since 
disappeared. They are now merged into consolidated govern- 
ments. But other divisions have been substituted in their 
place, whether known as departments, circles, or shires. These 
districts sometimes occupy the same ground which was once 
marked out as the domain of a feudal sovereignty. Accident 
has determined their extent, but not their use. When the 
authority of the central government was feeble, these inferior 
jurisdictions usurped nearly all power. Now that that au- 
thority is strong, they serve to convey it through all parts of 
the country. 

But the principle on which this division depends is very 
different in different countries, even at the present day. In 
some, the power which is set in motion in these smaller com- 
partments, flows from the central government as its source. 
In others, the central authority is itself the creature of the 
lesser governments, and these continue, after the establish- 
ment of the former, to exercise a larger share of the power 
which originally belonged to them. The United States afford 
the most perfect example of this plan. Accidental circum- 
stances gave rise to it. The states were independent sover- 
eignties when tlu j federal constitution was formed; so that 
this precise arrangement cannot be adopted where all the 
parts of society are melted into one homogeneous community. 
But there is no mure interesting problem in government than 
to determine how 7 far it is practicable to introduce the prin- 
ciple of the plan into all communities, no matter whether they 
have the confederate form or not. Not merely because this 



150 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[BOOK I. 



arrangement leads to a more convenient and efficient adminis- 
tration of public affairs, but because it is doubtful whether 
the maintenance of free institutions in any state of consider- 
able extent does not absolutely depend upon it. The estab- 
lishment of local jurisdictions gives a new direction to the 
whole course of legislation. Civil government is only a gen- 
eralization of the principles on which the affairs of society are 
conducted. But generalization may be pushed to such an 
extent as to make us lose sight of very important interests 
which, although they are themselves capable of generalization, 
are yet incapable of being ranged under the same class. By 
effecting a separation of those interests which are common to 
the whole society, from those which are local or sectional, these 
last are brought distinctly into view — they are forced upon 
the public attention. 

In most countries legislators have occupied themselves ex- 
clusively with those large and ponderous questions which fur- 
ther the aggrandizement of the nation rather than its solid 
prosperity, even the emperor Charlemagne was impressed 
with this fact, and gave vent to the frank declaration that it 
was impossible for one central government to superintend the 
affairs of an extensive community. Princes are forward 
enough to tell the truth when they are not placed in a situa- 
tion which obliges them to act upon it. But what was true 
during so early a period as the ninth century, when society 
was everywhere in a rude condition, must be still more true 
in the nineteenth century. For the affairs of every civilized 
state have become so complicated, and so minute, that they 
cannot be administered with the requisite skill aud ability by 
a central legislature merely. Convenience alone would sug- 
gest the propriety of a territorial division, and the creation of 
domestic jurisdictions, if not as extensive as those of Scotland 
and Ireland before their union with England, yet much more 
so than the departments of France. 

But what at first may be a rule of convenience leads directly 
to consequences of still greater importance. It lays the foun- 
dation of the great principle of the distribution of power, and 
reconciles two apparently opposite qualities — popular freedom, 
with vigor and efficiency in the government. No matter how 
popular the mode of electing the public officers is, yet if in 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



151 



the United States there were do domestic jurisdictions to pre- 
side over the local interests, the government would be repub- 
lican in form only. 

I know nothing which is more calculated to arrest the 
attention of the philosophical inquirer, as well as of the lover 
of freedom, than the new character which has been impressed 
upon the business of legislation in the United States. The 
state governments are confined exclusively to the care of the 
local interests; and this complete sequestration of those inter- 
ests, from everything which appertains to the national admin- 
istration, causes them to be more thoroughly studied and ap 
preciated than could otherwise possibly be the case. There is 
no security that legislation will be for the people, unless it is 
by and through the people. Nor any security that it will be 
by and through the people, uuless the subjects of legislation 
are brought so near as to be matter of immediate interest and 
constant observation. 

The legislatures of the American states have applied them- 
selves more diligently and effectively to the care of the sub- 
stantial interests of the people, than it has been in the power 
of a single legislature in any other country to do. If there is 
ground of complaint, it is in consequence of the excess of 
legislation. But it is impossible to have enough of any good 
thing, without having a superfluity. Experience, which be- 
comes a great instructor, wherever the system of representa- 
tion is thoroughly introduced, will assuredly correct this de- 
fect. 

We will suppose that, on an average, one month will be 
sufficient for the legislative sessions of the states ; and that 
five months will be consumed by the national legislature. 
Thirty-four months then are required, in order to legislate ad- 
vantageously for the national and domestic interests ; a period 
nearly three times the length of the year. In Great Britain, 
with a population considerably larger than that of the United 
States, parliament sits on an average only six mouths. If we 
make a further allowance for the unnecessary consumption of 
time by the American legislature, and for the fact, that the 
United States is in a state of greater progress than any other 
country, it is still evident that the time employed by the 
British legislature is altogether too short to permit of an 



152 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[BOOK I. 



effective administration of the public interests in the sense 
in which the term is now understood. If the country were 
more extensive, and the population greater, six months would 
still seem sufficient. Necessity would compress the immense 
mass of public business into that short space ; and the pub- 
lic mind would become habituated to it as the natural and 
reasonable period. The defect arises from having a single 
legislature to preside over the interests of twenty-seven mil- 
lions of people. Nor will the defect ever be apparent, so long 
as the system continues to exist. The human mind possesses 
a wonderful ductility in accommodating itself to any set of 
habits which have been fastened upon it. Thirty years ago 
the American people were thoroughly persuaded that they 
got along well enough without canals, and without the em- 
ployment of steam, by land or water. And it was with the 
greatest reluctance that they embarked in the plan of internal 
improvements. The first project of a canal, on an extensive 
scale, was literally carried through the legislature by storm, 
amid the most virulent and formidable opposition. And it is 
not improbable, if the position in which the American states 
were placed after the revolution had not given rise to the con- 
federate form of government, that the public would have been 
completely reconciled to the establishment of a single legisla- 
ture, where thirty now exist. 

There is nothing peculiar to America rendering so much 
more time necessary to the successful administration of the 
public business than in any other highly civilized community, 
unless it is the single circumstance of its free institutions. 
For although society is in a state of progression, yet it is so 
only in consequence of these institutions. There is no country 
which contains more wealth, a more thorough civilization, 
and more general intelligence. It is then in the condition of 
one of the oldest, instead of one of the newest, nations on 
the earth. And it may be said, with great truth, that there is 
more room for progress and improvement in every state of 
continental Europe, if there were only the ability and oppor- 
tunity to set in motion. In Eussia and Denmark, the legisla- 
tive body is nothing more than a council nominated by the 
king. No doubt these councils seem to transact all the requi- 
site business, and the machinery of government goes on reg- 



CHAP. VII. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



153 



ularly from year to year, without any great feeling of incon- 
venience. Nevertheless the disproportion, in point of effi- 
ciency, between those mock legislative bodies and the British 
parliament, is nearly as great as between the last and the 
combined legislatures of the United States. 

There may be an inconsistency in erecting a government 
for one aggregate community, and then morseling the public 
authority by distributing it among a number of lesser govern- 
ments. There is no inconsistency, however, if the plan is the 
result of the natural economy of society. The principle on 
which it is founded may be discerned everywhere, even in 
those governments where it is intended that the national 
power should be the most firmly consolidated. The depart- 
ments of France, the corporate cities of Great Britain, are in 
reality lesser governments, inclosed within a supreme govern- 
ment. And the only question is, whether the principle may 
not be advantageously pursued much further, wherever con- 
stitutional government exists, without reference to the fact, 
whether the state is one, or is composed of distinct members. 

A people who constitute an undivided community, would 
possess this advantage over the plan adopted in the United 
States : that the creation of domestic jurisdictions, being the 
act of the whole, instead of the parts, there would be less 
danger that they would exercise a disturbing influence upon 
the central authority. One is so much accustomed to consider 
the American government as a system "sui generis," as de- 
riving its meaning and utility from the originally independent 
existence of the parts, that it is supposed no system bearing 
an analogy to it is practicable in any other community. The 
mind is so habituated to consider cause and effect in the pre- 
cise order in which they first presented themselves, that it be- 
comes difficult to break through the association, and to make 
application of our experience, where the principle is the same, 
and the collateral circumstances only are different. 

It is plain enough, that the independent character of the 
states could not be preserved, if they had not power to super- 
intend the domestic interests. But these interests do not ac- 
quire the character of domestic ones, in consequence of the 
federal form of the government. The same reasons for re- 
garding them in that light would have existed, if no such 



154 NATURE AND TENDENCY [book i. 

government had been created. In other words, if the Ameri- 
can commonwealth had originally constituted one homogene- 
ous community, the central authority would have been entirely 
inadequate to the management of them, unless powers not ex- 
actly the same, but resembling those which now exist, were 
distributed among a set of local jurisdictions. The effect of 
the progress of civilization is not to diminish, but to increase 
immeasureably, the whole business of society; and unless 
this is skillfully and judiciously divided among a class of lesser 
governments, the institutions, however carefully modeled at 
first, must ultimately sink beneath the immense power con- 
densed in a single government. The example then which 
America holds out is chiefly valuable, not because it proves 
the utility of the confederate form of government; but be- 
cause it teaches us, that in order to maintain free institutions 
in their true spirit, it is necessary to make an extensive dis- 
tribution of the powers of society ; and that without any re- 
gard to circumstances which give rise to the formation of the 
government. It presents a great problem in political philoso- 
phy, and not merely an incidental question in the history of 
one particular set of institutions. 

Even in the consolidated government of France, long after 
the extinction of its feudal sovereignties, as late indeed as the 
reign of Louis XV, a plan, in many respects resembling the 
American, once prevailed. The provincial legislatures, or par- 
ticular estates, as they were called, to distinguish them from 
the general estates, or national congress, possessed very con- 
siderable local powers. Independently of the inferior civili- 
zation of France when compared with that of the United 
States, at the period when this system existed, and which 
necessarily prevented it from working anything like as well, 
there were several vices attendant upon it. It is only neces- 
sary to refer to two: 1st. The very imperfect responsibility of 
the deputies to those provincial legislatures to their constitu- 
ents. 2d. The power which they acquired, after the abolition 
of the states general, if, indeed, they did not exercise it before, 
of granting supplies for the whole kingdom, and not merely 
such as were necessary to defray the expenses of the provin- 
cial governments. 

The same plan of local governments existed in the ten 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



155 



Flemish provinces, when they were a part of the Austrian 
empire; and it is even more firmly established in both the 
Dutch and Belgian monarchies, notwithstanding the limited 
territory of each of them. That the system in these two last 
instances does not perform its movements with anything like 
the same precision as in the United States, is not the fault of 
the system, but arises from a defective basis of representa- 
tion, and from the imperfect responsibility of the provincial 
officers to the local population. 

There is no foundation for the opinion that the existence of 
these domestic jurisdictions weakens the force of the central 
authority. On the contrary, this last is less embarrassed in 
the administration of the national interests. That the forma- 
tion of a system of lesser governments constitutes a deduc- 
tion from the whole mass of powers, which would otherwise 
be deposited with the central government, is evident. For 
that is precisely the purpose for which they are created. But 
as the sphere within which the former move is distinctly de- 
fined, and the duties allotted to it are more simple than before, 
it is enabled to act with more promptitude and energy. Like 
the man who is intent on accomplishing some important de- 
sign, and whose attention is distracted by a variety of other 
pursuits, by ridding himself of all care for the last, he can 
prosecute the former without interruption. 

A central government, armed with extensive powers, stands 
much more in need of checks, than of provocatives, to the 
exercise of its authority. And if the establishment of local 
jurisdictions gives greater force to public opinion, and raises 
up obstacles to the exertion of too much power, it is not the 
less valuable on that account. I have heard many persons 
express admiration of the wonderful energy with which the 
British government prosecuted the wars which grew out of 
the French revolution. But if the expense had been defrayed 
by taxes, and loans not resorted to, the people would have 
i seen that their substantial interests were placed in direct op- 
position to the enterprises of the government. It was only 
because this fact was hidden from their view, that those wars 
were sustained with such amazing enthusiasm. The just fear 
of unpopularity would have prevented public men from em- 
barkiug in such an unnecessary contest. And although this 



156 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book L 



fear would have been regarded by some persons of very high 
notions as crippling the power of the government, yet it 
would only have crippled it in order to make the people 
strong. The same obstacle has constantly existed to the 
prosecution of similar enterprises by the American govern- 
ment, and the simple effect has been to accelerate the national 
power and prosperity to a degree absolutely unprecedented. 
And yet in a necessary war, there is no government which 
would be supported with so much enthusiasm, and would put 
forth so much power, as that of the United States. But more 
than ninety-nine out of a hundred of the wars which have 
ever taken place, have been unjust and unprofitable wars. 
And if the machinery of a system of local governments con- 
tributes indirectly to diffuse the popular will through every 
part of the country, and disarms the central government of 
the power to do mischief, it is not the less deserving of our 
admiration on that account. 

But there is another view of the great advantages of that 
system, which is not apt to be thought of : the maintenance 
of the public authority at home — the inculcating a general 
obedience to the laws, is the principal object — the final aim 
indeed — of civil government. If that is attained, everything 
else will go right. But the system of local governments con- 
tributes directly to the promotion of this end. It brings the 
authority of the laws nearer to every one. The government 
which undertakes to preserve order is not removed to a great 
distance — is not regarded with an unfriendly eye — as if it 
were constantly intermeddling with the interests of a people 
with whom it had no direct sympathy. On the contrary, each 
individual feels as if he were surrounded by an authority, in 
the creation of which he himself bore a part, and which yet, 
somehow or other, is more vigilant, and active, and impera- 
tive, than any other. 

Thus, as the family and the school train men in order to 
turn them out in the world afterward, so the domestic govern- 
ments create a species of moral discipline on a still more ex- 
tended scale. They educate their own people to obedience to 
the laws, and then deliver them over to the national govern- 
ment. The authority of the last, instead of being weakened, 
is redoubled by this preparatory discipline. 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



157 



Another advantage of the plan of local governments is, 
that it prevents geographical parties from exerting an inordi- 
nate influence in the national councils. These parties will 
inevitably make their appearance in every country of consid- 
erable extent. It is not desirable to extinguish them, but 
only to place them at a distance, where their reasonings will 
be heard, and their passions not felt. By creating local juris- 
dictions, geographical parties are enclosed within geographical 
limits, and are not brought into eternal collision at the heart 
of the government. Although such parties are actually found 
on the floor of the American congress, yet if the state gov- 
ernments did not exist, they would have displayed a front 
infinitely more formidable; and would have either jeopardized 
the integrity of the union, or the existence of free institutions. 
At present a vast amount of legislative power is withdrawn 
from the national assembly, and circumscribed within bounds 
so clearly defined, as to be not only harmless, but to produce 
a skilful, and orderly administration of the public interests. 
Although Great Britain is of very small extent when com- 
pared with the United States, yet if, when the Scotch uuion 
took place, a compact had not been formed, securing to Scot- 
land its ecclesiastical and civil institutions forever, geograpi- 
cal parties would instantly have appeared, and would have 
had an influence fatal to the public prosperity. Although the 
separate legislature of Scotland was abolished, the effect of 
the union was to declare all its former acts to be permanent; 
and thus to compel all future legislation to take a direction 
conformable to them. It was the next thing to perpetuating 
the existence of the Scotch parliament. For want of this 
wise precaution, when the union with Ireland* took place, a 
formidable geographical party has been kept alive in that 
island, to the great annoyance of the peace of both countries; 



*The articles of union between England and Ireland did, in terms, guar- 
antee to the last her laws. But there were in truth no Irish laws to guar- 
antee. As early as the reign of Henry VII, all the statutes made in 
Englarfd were declared of force in Ireland, and from that period to 17S2, 
no subsquent law could even be proposed to the Irish parliament, without 
the consent of the English privy council. This last disability was re 
moved only eighteen years before the uuion. 



158 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book i 



and producing heart burnings which never can be cured, until 
England consents, oris compelled, to be just to Ireland. 

What amount of power should be deposited with the local 
jurisdictions, where the confederate form of government is not 
established, is a question as novel as it is interesting. Doubt- 
less, it would be necessary to adopt some medium between 
the comprehensive legislation of the American states, and the 
meager authority which is exercised by the French depart- 
ments. The American states are complete governments within 
themselves, having unlimited power of taxation, except as to 
imposts on commerce, with an authority equally extensive 
over the whole field of civil and criminal jurisprudence. Ed- 
ucation, private and public corporations, internal improve- 
ments, all lie within the scope of their jurisdiction. They 
have a written constitution, a regular legislative assembly, an 
executive magistrate, and a corps of administrative officers, 
together with a judicial system unsurpassed by that of any 
other country. No one would desire to make any alteration 
in this admirable plan of government, for it has not only con- 
tributed to a most wise administration of public affairs: it 
has done more, it has hastened the march of civilization. If 
it were impossible, in the case of a consolidated republic, to 
obtain the medium I have suggested, it would be better to 
adopt this system. But that there is such a medium is clear 
from the examples I have referred to, of the particular estates 
of France, and the provincial legislatures in the Belgian and 
Dutch governments; examples which, however imperfect, are 
nevertheless highly instructive, inasmuch as they present the 
existence of the system in monarchical governments, to which 
they are much less adapted than to countries where free insti- 
tutions prevail. It is clear, also, from the various plaus which 
were proposed in the convention which framed the American 
constitution ; some of which seem to have proceeded upon the 
idea, that the United States composed one aggregate commu- 
nity, and were modeled upon the hypothesis. 

A certain number of deputies then will be sent to the na- 
tional, and to each of the local, legislatures. As regards the 
first, shall the whole country constitute one electoral district, 
or shall each of the local divisions compose one, the people 
voting by general ticket; or shall these divisions be subdi- 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



159 



vided into districts, each coutaiuing the population which en- 
titles it to one member'? The first plan may be dismissed as 
absurd. It has never been thought of, even in those Euro- 
pean monarchies where the principle of representation has 
been introduced. The electors would be completely confound- 
ed in looking over a vast extent of country, for several hun- 
dred individuals, whom each was to vote for, and no choice 
could be understandingly made. The central government, or 
its managers, would choose for them. 

But even if a selection in the genuine sense could be made, 
there would be no representation of the minority. The party 
in the majority would wield the power of the commonwealth 
without control, without the corrective influence, which an 
antagonist party is so well calculated to exert. The minority 
might approach to within one or two hundred of the majority, 
among two or three millions of votes, yet the last would elect 
every member. Even in the consolidated governments of 
Great Britain and France, therefore, the country is divided 
into electoral districts, which is a plain acknowledgment that, 
even where there are no local governments, there should be 
local representatives. The justice and utility of recognizing 
in some mode or other the local interests, is forced upon so- 
ciety, even where the form of government seems to forbid the 
idea. The arrangement which nature makes of human affairs 
sometimes rides over all the laws which are intended to coun- 
teract it. 

With regard to two other modes of election, by general 
ticket in each of the great local divisions, or by electoral dis- 
tricts carved out of those divisions, the reasoning which has 
already been employed, is equally applicable to show that the 
latter is greatly to be preferred, whether the elections are to 
the national, or the local, legislatures. 

In England, as before remarked, knights of the shire were 
originally the representatives from the counties. The shires 
were local divisions of the kingdom, and the knights of each 
shire deputed one of their own number to parliament. The 
continuance of these parliamentary districts has survived the 
artificial state of society from which it sprung, and contrib- 
utes in an eminent degree to the freedom and independence of 
the legislative body. It is this mode of election which has 



IGO 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[ BOOK L 



given rise to the question so often agitated : is the member 
elected the representative of the whole state, or of the dis- 
trict which chooses him ; — which is in some respects similar 
to another question which might be put : whether man is an 
individual or a member of society. The answer would be 
nearly the same in the two cases. Man is both an individual 
and a citizen ; and the deputy is a representative of his dis- 
trict, arid at the same time of his whole country. And as 
that system of private conduct which most effectually consults 
the welfare of the individual, conduces most to the prosperity 
of the community, so that system of public conduct which 
most truly advances the interests of one part of the country, 
is certain to redound to the advantage of the whole. But in- 
asmuch as men do not always see things as they really are, as 
ignorance, prejudice, and egotism lead them so much astray 
in whatever regards the public interests, the system of domes- 
tic government is contrived in order to prevent the interfer- 
ence of sectional with the national interests. And thus the 
question, is the deputy the representative of his district, or of 
the country, is of infinitely rarer occurrence iu the United 
States, than it would be if the population composed one aggre- 
gate community. Election by districts mitigates the rigor of 
the rule, that the majoriry are entitled to govern. It draws 
the bond of responsibility closer, and it breaks the force of 
party spirit. The first has been sufficiently explained. 

Where local legislatures are created, the effect is that the 
national interests are not represented in them, nor are the 
local interests represented in the national assembly. This is 
the general tendency of the plan ; though as the boundary 
between the two jurisdictions cannot be drawn with exact pre- 
cision, exceptions will necessarily occur. The responsibility 
of the deputy to the local legislature will be stronger, because, 
if his constituents are local, so also are the interests which he 
represents. The responsibility of the deputy who is sent to 
the national legislature will be more complete : because, al- 
though his constituents are local, the interests which he repre- 
sents are exclusively national. Where this distribution of the 
powers of government is established, this further effect takes 
place. As the responsibility of a legislative body is iu an in- 
verse ratio to the number of its members, after a certain point 



CHAP. VII.] 



/ 

OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



161 



is reached ; so also the responsibility of the members is greater, 
where those to whom they are immediately accountable do not 
compose a great multitude. The representative of a district 
is constantly exposed to the gaze of his constituents. He 
might hide himself among two or three millions of people. 
He cannot do so among fifty or an hundred thousand. 

Whatever contributes to afford a clear insight into public 
affairs, and enables everything to be seen in its true light, 
abates the violence of party spirit. Whatever shrouds them 
in mystery, and causes them to be seen confusedly, gives force 
to party spirit. The representative is the instrument of com- 
munication between his constituents and the world of poli- 
tics; and whatever causes his conduct to be distinctly sur- 
veyed, causes the system of public measures to be more easily 
grasped, and more generally understood. 



11 



162 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book l 



CHAPTER VIII. 
PARTIES — THE OFFICE THEY FULLFIL IN A REPUBLIC. 

Many persons of great intelligence, and who are inclined to 
look with a favorable eye upon the progress which society is 
everywhere making, when they behold the scene of strife and 
contention which parties in a republic give rise to, recoil from 
it with dismay, and are instantly disposed to take refuge in 
what they denominate strong government. Nevertheless, it 
is most certaiu, that the distinguishing excellence of free in- 
stitutions conists in their giving birth to popular parties, and 
that the annoyance and the inconvenience which these occa- 
sion to individuals, both in public and private life, are produc- 
tive' of incalculable advantage. It is a great mistake, with 
•our knowledge of the constitution of human nature, to sup- 
pose that society would be better ordered if its surface were a 
perfect calm. 

The democratic principle has come into the world not to 
bring peace, but a sword; or rather to bring peace by a sword. 
One may easily conceive of an individual, that his various 
faculties may be so evenly balanced as to give rise to the just- 
est and the most consistent scheme of conduct. And one may 
liken the state to some huge individual, and say that the rival 
views and opinions of different parties conspire to the same 
end ; that when these are free to give utterance to their senti- 
ments, a similar equipose takes place among all parts of so- 
ciety, and tint something like a regular s\ stem takes place in 
the conduct of public affairs. 

The human mind, with all its capabilities of thought and 
action, is wondeifully disposed to listlessness ; so that it re- 
quies the most powerful incentives in order to rouse its dor- 
mant energies. And the condition of the great majority of 
mankind is such, that none but those sensible interests which 
touch them on every sidecan be relied upo as the instrumeutof 



CHAP. VIII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



163 



moving them. By giving a fall play, and a favorable direc- 
tion to these, we succeed in im parting activity to the disposi- 
tion. And this being attained, a great amount of thought 
and reflection is sure to be developed among the great bulk of 
the population. Party spirit at bottom is but the conflict of 
different opinions, to each of which some portion of truth 
almost invariably adheres: and what has ever been the effect 
of this mutual action of mind upon mind, but to sharpen 
men's wits, to extend the circle of their knowledge, and to 
raise the general mind above the former level. Therefore it 
is, that an era of party spirit, whether religious, philosophical, 
or political, has always been one of intellectual advancement. 
A powerful understanding may be sufficiently stimulated by 
the study and investigation of abstract truth : but the diffu- 
sion of knowledge in the concrete, seems to be indispensably 
necessary to produce this effect among the great majority of 
mankind. 

The existence of parties in a republic, even noisy and clam- 
orous parties, is not therefore a circumstance which should be 
regarded as inimical to the peace and welfare of the State. 
It should rather be received as a special and extraordinary 
provision, for furthering the interests and advancing the in- 
telligence of the most numerous class of society. By creating 
an arena on which all men may be active and useful, we are 
certain of attracting an incalculably greater number to the 
pursuit of industry and knowledge than would be possible 
under any other state of things. The growth of popular par- 
ties constantly keeps pace with the diffusion of industry and 
property. The diffusion of industry and property, by exer- 
cising the mind inteutly upon small things at first, exercises 
it earnestly and seriously upon important ones in the end. 

The true theory of popular parties then consists in multi- 
plying the employments of private individuals — in increasing 
the active industry of the whole community. The regular 
deportment and habits of reflection which these produce coun- 
teract the vicious pendencies of the system, and operate as a 
safeguard against the extreme excesses and the violent revolu- 
tions which occur in other countries. As the interests of pri- 
vate persons under this system becomes more and more iden- 
tified with those of the State, each one has a desire and a mo- 



164 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



tive for understanding and taking part in public affairs. The 
question in human affairs is never whether any particular ar- 
rangement shuts out all mischief and inconvenience, but only 
whether it excludes the greatest practicable amount; and not 
of one kiud merely, but of all kinds. Thus, although in a 
democratic republic, a vastly greater number of people take 
part in politics than under any other form of government, the 
minds of a vastly greater number are exercised by some 
healthful and useful occupation, which not only inspires sagac- 
ity and energy, but commuuicates a character of seriousness 
and reflection to the whole population. The weak side of 
human nature is thus constantly propped up and strengthened. 
The bickerings and animosities of parties are not extinguished; 
but there is, notwithstanding, a greater degree of public tran- 
quility than would otherwise exist. 

Popular parties are not only the natural result of elective 
government, but what is of much more consequence, they are 
absolutely necessary to uphold and preserve it. It is too com- 
mon to regard certain arrangements of society as a sort of 
necessary evils; and thus very imperfectly to comprehend 
their true design, and the important agency which they have 
in securing the public welfare. 

As the political institutions in a republic are of a totally 
different character from what they are in monarchical or aris- 
tocratical government, there is a corresponding differenca in 
the machinery which sets each of them respectively in motion. 
In the artificial forms of government, a systeni of checks and 
balances is devised, to secure the influence of the public 
authority, and to maintain each department in its proper 
place. But such an expedient would be futile and powerless 
where government means vastly more than the rule of the per- 
sons who fill the various public offices. In a republic, a sub- 
stantive part of the political authority is designedly commu- 
nicated to the whole population. We want something more, 
therefore, than a scheme of checks and balances within the 
government. As the forces which are set in motion are so 
much more extensive, we must contrive some machinery 
equally extensive, for the purpose of controlling them. And 
thus popular parties very naturally, not to say necessarily, 
take the place of that curious system of checks and balances 



CHAP. VIII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



165 



which are well enough adapted to a close aristocracy, or pure 
monarchy, but which play only a subordinate part in repre- 
sentative government. 

In a despotism, parties have no existence. Inactions there 
may be, but not parties. In all the other artificial forms of 
government, the constitution of parties is more or less 
imperfect, because they are overborne by an extraneous influ- 
ence which disables them from faithfully representing opin- 
ions. In a democratic republic, the people themselves com- 
pose all the existing parties. Hence opinions are not only 
submitted to examination, but they are submitted to the ex- 
amination of those who are immediately affected by them. 
But the greater the number of persons who are consulted with 
regard to any measure which has an importaut bearing upon 
their interests, the greater is the probability that it will be 
adjusted with a view to their common welfare. The process 
may be tedious and circuitous, but this is an advantage, since 
it will cause a greater amount of reflection to be employed. 
Moreover, when opinions have to pass through a great num- 
ber of minds before they are reduced to practice, society does 
not experience a violent shock, as it does upon their sudden 
and unpremeditated adoption. Factious stir the passions of 
men, but parties introduce the conflict of opinions. 

It would appear, then, that the wider the arena on which 
parties move, the more numerous the persons who compose 
them, the less dangerous they are to the state; which is the 
reverse of the conclusion to which the great majority of men 
are inclined to lean. 

The absence of parties in a country of free institutions, 
would imply the existence of unanimity on all occasions. But 
in the imperfect condition of man, unanimity would not be de- 
sirable. As in the individual, one faculty is set over against 
another, in order to elicit the greatest amount of judgment, 
wisdom, and experience; so the mutual encounter of rival 
opinions, in different sections of society, constitutes a disci- 
pline of the same character, on a much larger scale. Unan- 
imity, which has the appearance of being the only rightful 
rule, would, if it were conceivable, render society absolutely 
stationary. Man is not born with knowledge; and all the use- 
ful or noble qualities which he ever exerts are the offspring of 



1C6 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[BOOK L 



variety, not of uniformity. Constituted as human nature is, 
there would be no virtue without some conflict of interests, 
and no wisdom without some conflict of opinions. 

And this supposes a very important fact in the history of 
society ; that although the majority rule, the minoritj , by vir- 
tue of the naked power which belongs to opinions, are able to 
exert an indirect, and yet very decisive, influence upon the 
course of public affairs. This influence is so great, that no 
one who has been accustomed to examine the workings of so- 
ciety in different countries can fail to have been struck with 
the repeated instances in which the opinions of a minority 
have triumphed over those of the majority, so as ultimately 
to become the settled and established opinions, and to trans- 
form the minority into the majority. And this, notwithstand- 
ing the civil institutions may not have been very favorable 
to the rise and growth of parties. 

Among the important changes in the scheme of public pol- 
icy which have taken place in Great Britain in very recent 
times, may be enumerated the abolition of the slave trade, 
the amelioration of the criminal code, the introduction of more 
liberal principles into commerce, the reformation of the civi 
jurisprudence, Catholic emancipation, and parliamentary re 
form. In each of these instances the new opinion commenced 
with an exceedingly small party, and encountered in its pro- 
gress the most solidly established authority. If the triumph 
has not been complete, it is certain to become so, in consequence 
of the strong ground which these very efforts have enablec 
popular parties to stand upon. So far from a minority not ex- 
ercising a very marked influence upon the conduct of public 
affairs, the instances will be found to be exceedingly rare in 
any country where opinions are able to make themselves felt, 
in which a minority have not succeeded, if the cause it es- 
poused entitled it to be victorious. This fact would seem to 
show that so far as effective and permanent influences is con- 
cerned, it is of little consequence whether an enlightenec 
scheme of policy is first suggested by the minority, or the ma- 
jority. The fact that it is enlightened gives it a claim to suc- 
cess, and that success is almost infallible. 

Among the important movements which have taken place 
in American society may be noticed the revolution, the estab- 



CHAP. VIII ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



167 



lishmentof the federal constitution, and the ascendancy which 
the republican party attained in 1801. Each of these revolu- 
tions commenced with an inconsiderable band, which ulti- 
mately won its way to public confidence, and totally reversed 
the position of parties. The declaration of independence was 
only carried by one vote. The freedom of the colonies might 
have been rightfully asserted half a century prior to 1776. 
But although the struggles of opinions may have been more 
protracted than that of armies, it always terminates in more 
decisive results. As to the second of those revolutions, the 
establishment of the confederate form of government, it was 
at one time deemed absolutely impracticable. Governor Pow- 
nall, in his work on the administration of the colonies, written 
about the time of the celebrated convention at Albany, de- 
clared that they had no one principle of association among 
them, aid that their manner of settlement, diversity of char- 
acters, conflicting interests, and mutual rivalship, forbid all 
idea of an union. And Dr. Franklin, who was one of the com- 
missioners to that convention, declared that an union of the 
colonies was absolutely impracticable, or at least, without 
being forced by the most grievous oppression and tyranny. 
The acutest observers, and the most experienced statesmen, 
underrated the force with which opinions are armed, wheu 
they are pursued with a steady and unfaltering resolution. 

The third revolution was the natural consequence of the 
others. The two first acted upon the political institutions, 
and remodeled the government. The last acted upon the 
manners, and brought the laws, and the structures of society, 
into harmony and agreement with each other. 

I will mention but two instances in the history of the state 
governments, in which the opinions of a party greatly in the 
minority have finally prevailed, and obtained au almost un- 
limited ascendency. These are the amelioration of the crim- 
inal code, and the establishment of a system of internal im- 
provements. Each of these enlightened schemes originated 
with a very small party, the one in Pennsylvania, and the 
other in New York. And they have not only conquered all 
opposition in those states, but have extended their influence 
over the whole union. 

The struggle of new with old opinions will be more tedious 



168 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



in an old than in a new country. The abolition of the laws 
of primogeniture, and the simplification of the code of civil 
jurisprudence, did not occupy much time in the United States. 
In Great Britain, it is only within a few years that the second 
has been even partially accomplished. The first may not be 
effected in half a century or more. 

Thus, whenever the general state of public opinion is least 
prepared for an important change in the existing institutions ; 
that is, whenever agitation, discussion, and the encounter of 
rival opinions, is most necessary, and will be productive of 
most advantage — by developing a great amount of observa- 
tion and experience — the struggle of new opinions is the long- 
est protracted ; and wherever these qualities already exist in 
great perfection, the contest is short, and soon brought to a 
close. 

As soon as the period arrived when Congress had authority 
to abolish the slave trade, it was abolished. The debate on 
the subject is not one of the memorable debates in the American 
legislature. But it is one of the most memorable which has taken 
place in the British parliament, during the last half century. 

It is curious to notice the manner in which parties deal with 
each other, and to watch the process by which opinions are 
communicated from one to the other. For parties would be 
without meaning" and without utility, if they were eternally to 
battle with each other with no other result than the alternate 
loss and acquisition of power. The desire to obtain the as- 
cendancy may be the moving spring which actuates each ; but 
fortunately this spring cannot be set in motion in a country of 
free institutions, without rousing a prodigious amount of reflec- 
tion among a very large portion of the population. Doubt- 
less the true use of parties is very far from being to adminis- 
ter provocatives to demagogues to gratify their private ambi- 
tion. Their selfish views may be necessary in order to ani- 
mate them in the pursuit of certain opinions. But the mo- 
ment these opinions are promulgated, they are subjected to a 
searching examination in all parts of society, because they are 
felt to have a practical bearing upon the substantial interests of 
all. The true office of parties then is to elicit and make man- 
ifest the amount of truth which belongs to the tenets of each; 
so that the great body of the people, who belong to no party 



CHAP. VIII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



169 



save the party of their country, may be both easily and un- 
derstandiugly guided in the path they pursue. 

In the progress of the struggle which takes place between 
parties, they will often be very equally balanced, and each 
will, for a time, alternately acquire the ascendancy. The first 
time that the party which before had been habitually in the 
minority, attaius a decided preponderance, is felt as a presage 
of permanent success. The new opinions are then deemed to 
be practicable. Old associations are broken, and a new im- 
pulse is given to the new party. The party which had been 
accustomed to carry everything, falls back into the minority ; 
and this example of the instability of power sets every one a 
thinking, and even amid the strife of politics, produces more 
prudence and moderation. The party in the minority, and 
now discarded from power, is at first disposed to cling to its 
most extreme opinions. Its pride has been wounded, and its 
ambition disappointed. It has no idea of turning to any sets of 
opinions upon compulsion. But a popular party contains a vast 
number of individuals whose temperaments, modes of think- 
ing, and opportunities of information, are often exceedingly 
different, and whom it would be impossible to fashion as you 
would a close body into one unalterable form. Keflection, 
sooner or later, takes the place of passion. And as the at- 
tachment of individuals to their own independent opinions is 
often much stronger than to the opinions of a party, every 
assurance is afforded that the new and enlightened opin- 
ions which have been introduced into the public adminis- 
tration, will not only be the rule for the party in power, but 
that they will spread their influence more or less over the 
men of all parties. Every one soon sees that there is really 
no such thing as compulsion in representative government ; 
and that if a system ot policy has fairly won over a majority 
of the suffrages of twenty millions of people, a very consider- 
able portion of truth, to say the least, must belong to that 
system. They recollect that as no one man can represent 
the whole of humanity, so no one party can represent the 
whole truth in politics. Thus the minds of many, who were 
most obstinately set in the opposite direction, are gradually 
opened to the reception ot new opinions. They begin to 
declare, for the first time, that some very important changes 



170 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



were necessary to secure the well being of the State. Great 
numbers openly go over to the opposite party — some from 
settled conviction, others from a sort of instinctive feeling 
that all was not right before. This gives additional strength 
to the majority, which, when it does not advance merely novel 
opinions, but appeals to truth and to the judgment of inau- 
kind, is sure to retain the supremacy for a considerable pe- 
riod. Everything then becomes fixed and settled. 

But this very fixation of everything, so delightful to those 
who have deen tormented by anxiety, and tossed by contrary 
hopes and fears, is not to last forever. This state of repose is 
often as fatal to the maintenance of free institutions, as the 
ill- regulated ambition of parties. Prosperity corrupts parties, 
as well as individuals. The long enjoyment of power per- 
suades those who have possessed it, that it can never be 
wrested from them. Abuses, though not perhaps of the same 
kind, break out again. These abuses gain strength gradually. 
They are fortified by the prejudices which the prescription of 
time creates, as well as by the self-interest and cupidity of the 
leaders of party. Any attempt to root them up, is regarded 
as before, as an attempt to change fundamental usages, and to 
tamper with the vital interests of the community. Then com- 
mences a new struggle, very much resembling the former; the 
same circle of opinions will be described as in the former rev- 
olution. Everything will again be set right, without shed- 
ding one drop of blood, without the employment of any other 
instrumentality than the simple dropping of the ballot. But 
it may happen that the new opinions which now spring up, 
will not be entitled to as entire confidence as in the former 
revolution. In the progress of the controversy, each party 
will cause some portion of its own opinions to be adopted. 
The issue will not be so decisive. A new party, or probably 
an old party, with views greatly modified, will succeed to 
power, and will preside for another term of years. It is in 
this way that all parties find themselves, somehow or other, 
represented in the state — some virtually, others potentially ; 
and although the government is frequently exposed to the 
most formidable power by which it can be assailed, that power 
is exercised so steadily, and yet silently, as to overturn noth- 
ing, and yet to revolutionize everything. 



CHAP. VIII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



171 



There is another very curious inquiry connected with this 
subject ; one which unfolds a very instructive chapter in the 
history of human nature. I believe it will be found, on a 
close observation, that parties in a republic, in great numbers 
of instances, originate in, and are nourished by, secret rival- 
ships in private life; and that although questions of state 
policy serve to designate them, and to give them an outward 
form, those questions are, in great part, laid hold of in order 
to give force and effect to feelings of a very different kind. 
If the history of every hamlet and neighborhood in the United 
States were written, this fact would be found verified with 
wonderful exactness. But it is not necessary that we should be 
acquainted with the chronicles of all. It is enough to seize 
the events which pass under our own observation. What 
takes place in a few, will differ in no material respect from what 
transpires in all. 

This is a view of the subject which is not only exceedingly 
curious, as affording an insight into the workings of human 
nature, but is highly instructive, as it sheds great light upon 
the formation and composition of parties. It is generally sup- 
posed, that individuals connect themselves with parties upon 
political grounds ; that is, that they are influenced by a per- 
suation of the propriety, or impropriety of certain public 
measures. This is a great error. Numbers enter into these 
associations, from motives which are of a purely personal or 
private character. And this is true equally of the common 
people, and of the higher classes. In speaking of motives of 
a personal character, however, I do not at all refer to the pref- 
erence which is felt for a particular leader ; for this is gen- 
erally of a negative character. It may help to decide the 
turn which parties sometimes take, but falls entirely short of 
the view to which I wish to direct the attention of the reader. 
To a very great extent, parties are formed and changed in con- 
sequence of the position in private life which individuals 
occupy. Any one who has lived in any town in the United 
States long enough to make an accurate observation of the 
structure of society, and the dispositions of the people who 
inhabit it, must have noticed that there is a constant tendency 
towards what may be called the supremacy, or precedence, of 
certain individuals or families. These will, perhaps, be com- 



172 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



posed of the old residents, of the merchants, of professional 
men, etc. As adherents of these, will always be found a num- 
ber of the inferior classes, so that it cannot be termed a merely 
aristocratical party. Two circumstances, however, in the 
progress of time, contribute to weaken, or entirely to break 
up this association : 1st. Where any body of men, no matter 
how wide or how narrow the sphere of their influence may be, 
has maintained a certain degree of precedence for a consider- 
able time, those who compose it become confident in them- 
selves and annoy others, by making show of their influence. 
2d. In the great majority of towns under twenty thousand, 
there will be a lack of talent in this body, owing either to the 
circumstance, that the long enjoyment of a fixed position in 
society diminishes the motives to exertion, or that there is not 
now enough for the strenuous action of mind upon mind. 
Either of these causes, and, of course, both combined, lead 
very naturally to the crumbling of the party, and to the for- 
mation of new opinions, and a new party. I visited several 
parts of the United States during the administration of James 
Monroe. Parties could not be said to be extinct, but they 
were feeble and inactive. In every town and village, and I 
may add neighborhood, a predominant and complacent influ- 
ence was exercised by certain families, or individuals, on the 
principle I have suggested. I visited, or obtained accurate 
information, of most of these some years afterwards, when 
parties were distinctly formed. These parties were termed 
political, and, in outward appearance, had no other character. 
But political disputes only gave occasion to them, and afford- 
ed a plausible ground for open hostility, when, in truth, the 
actuating motives were of a strictly personal character, and 
it was the individuals who were arrayed against one another. 
Everywhere it was the new men against the old ; very often 
the talented and the ambitious against the supine and unin- 
telligent. In many instances, it was the reverse ; it was the 
radical, the ignorant, the persons jealous of any influence 
which overshadowed them, no matter how rightful that influ- 
ence was, who battled against superior talent, and long con- 
tinued influence. In many instances, whole counties and dis- 
tricts of country, were revolutionized, the new men succeed- 
ing to the old. In others, the new men did not succeed in 



chap, viil] OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 173 



obtaining the mastery ; but they notwithstanding wrought a 
great change in the habits and mode of thinking, of other 
people ; for even ineffectual opposition may have a very ad- 
vantagous influence. It wakes up those against whom it is 
directed; it leads them to soften, or correct their defects; 
otherwise they caunot maintain the victory they have won. 
In hardly any instance were political questions the springs 
which brought about these changes. One body of men sim- 
ply felt uneasy in the subordinate position which it seemed to 
occupy. In general conversation and iu public meetings, 
questions of public policy were seized as the ruling motives ; 
in private conversation it was otherwise. There, people freely 
declared that political questions were of very inferior moment, 
compared with the annoyance which was daily experienced iu 
private life, from the complacent rule of a clique, which could 
show no intrinsic title to respect. 

It is of great importance that these views should be thorough- 
ly studied by every one. Public controversies are Dot every- 
thing, even in politics. Every community requires, if I may 
so express myself, to be occasionly ventilated ; and this can only 
be done by operating upon the secret and more delicate springs 
which work the machinery of society. We thus gain a clearer 
insight into the origin, character, and fluctuation of parties. It 
is as necessary to study the physiology of society, in order 
to understand the workings of government, as it is to study 
the physiology of man, in order to penetrate the character of 
the individual. The changes I have referred to are periodical. 
They take place about every generation. The reasou is ob- 
vious : a period of twenty or thirty years is necessary to con- 
firm the authority of any body of men, and until it is con- 
firmed, it is not very troublesome to any one. Those who are 
growing into manhood then unite with the discontented among 
the older men. If this view does not present a very flattering 
picture of human nature, it at least shows, that through the 
instrumentality of some very harmless agents, important 
changes in the structure ot society, are brought about silent- 
ly and peacefully. A democratic community will not there- 
fore be so liable to those terrible shocks, which, iu other coun- 
tries, are necessary to sweep away public abuses. 

If we suppose that there are two or three men in a neigh- 



174 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book i 



borhood who possess considerable influence, whether arising 
from family connections, wealth, or any other of the advan- 
tages of fortune, this at once lays the foundation for rivalship 
in its most secret forms. Envyings and heart burnings insen- 
sibly grow up. This is a fact we are bound to know, only to 
draw instruction from it. This rivalship gradually extends to 
the connections of each, to their friends, and acquaintances — 
to all those who may be disposed to take refuge under the in- 
fluence of one, rather than others — until at length the whole 
neighborhood is involved in their disputes. One perhaps ac- 
quires a decided ascendancy ; and in a few years this dispro- 
portion ed influence incommodes great numbers of people in 
all the walks of private life. Many immediately declare, that 
they can see no reason why so much importance should be 
ascribed to any one who does not possess either eminent vir- 
tue or ability; and they set themselves to work more vigor- 
ously than ever, in order to abate so great a nuisance. At 
the same time political questions are discussed, and agitated 
everywhere, and regular parties in the state are organizing. 
Each of these neighborhood clans connects itself with one or 
other of those parties, as the chance of success in their private 
views may dictate. The democratic party is understood to be 
the one which is most favorable to the equal rights of the 
citizens ; and all the opponents of this mimic aristocracy in a 
country neighborhood ally themselves with that party. 

The influential man does not always put himself forward as 
a candidate lor office. He feels that this would be to create 
envy among his own dependants — that it would be a danger- 
ous test of his capacity and wisdom. But he brings some one 
forward who leans upon him, and who, if not the most capa- 
ble, will be the most available man. And party politics now 
having two faces, the most available will generally be the 
most incompetent man. This mixture of private views with 
the political questions of the day, will sometimes render the 
machinery of parties very complicated and difficult to under- 
stand. And it will cause oscillations among parties when 
they were least expected. But we will suppose that the demo- 
cratic party prevails. The iiiflnence which was before so seri- 
ous an annoyance, and the subject of so much complaint in 
private, is then greatly diminished. ISome one whose conuec- 



chap, viii ] OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 175 

tioa with the wealthy will be less obvious, and whose reliance 
upon the masses will be closer, is elected. He also may be 
nicknamed an available man — that is, a man whose face is 
smoothed — or a practical man, which means a man with a 
single idea. At any rate the personal weight and importance 
which political promotion gives him, and the bright prospects 
which every one beholds opening in his path, concur to clothe 
him with a very enviable share of influence. Or, if he also 
has been merely put forward to further the private schemes of 
others, the same effect is produced. A new influence is raised 
up in the neighborhood to act as a counterpoise to that which 
before prevailed. But in a few years, the same annoyance is 
felt in consequeuce of the asceudancy of this new party. Men 
begin then to exercise a bolder spirit of inquiry than they 
were willing to trust themselves with before. They see no 
reason why wealth, or any other fortuitous advantage, should 
give claim to precedence in society. The new favorite perhaps 
owed his elevation to personal motives and private views. 
But he is perhaps not fully sensible of this ; or, at any rate, 
it does not readily occur to him, that after being elected to a 
public station, of considerable responsibility, he has any other 
vocation than to attend to the public business. He separates 
the end from the means, and congratulates himself with the 
reflection that now a public trust is confided to him, he will be 
at liberty to act with a single eye to the people's interest. 

After an interval more or less long, during which there will 
be gre »t fermentation in the ranks of both parties, some new 
man will be selected, who will reflect the feelings, as well as 
the political opinions, of those who elect him. His success is 
almost certain; for the private aims and secret prejudices 
which were originally set in motion, have been continually 
gaining strength. And in order that the successful candidate 
may now well understand the line of conduct which he is ex- 
pected to pursue, what were before regarded as motives, which 
might well enough influence without determining public con- 
duct, are erected into opinions, on which full as much stress 
is laid as on any of the questions of public policy. This gives 
a deeper movement to the workings of parties. All sorts of 
opinious are now hazarded ; men approach inquiries, which 
before were only touched lightly, and by stealth. The fault 



176 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I 



with the public man now is, that he runs into the opposite ex- 
treme. He takes his constituents literally at their word, and 
acts out his part even to exaggeration. He is intent only on 
gratifying his spleen : he indulges in personal invectives, in 
gross and indecent assaults. He has brought himself to be- 
lieve that the public business is not merely of secondary im- 
portance, but that it is of hardly any importance whatever. He 
administers provocatives enough to the bad passions, but neg- 
lects and mismanages public business. The consequent de- 
rangement of political affairs is now more or less felt by the 
people in their private interests. Moreover, they are mortified 
in finding that some portion of the disgrace which their favor- 
ite has incurred attaches to themselves. [Numbers then con- 
fer together, but in such a way as to avoid if possible the no- 
tice of the opposite party. They consult in private, how it 
may be possible, with the least noise and inconvenience, to 
remove the present incumbent, and to elect some one of pru- 
dence and discretion, even though his talents should be as 
moderate. A majority, perhaps, are candidly of this opinion ; 
but a considerable number still cling to their personal views, 
as being the true index of public opinion ; and without the aid 
of this body, it will be impossible to effect anything. With- 
out their votes, the majority will fall back into the minority. 
All the private consultations are then hushed up, and the dif- 
ferences, which produced them, are forgotten for a time. The 
party displays a bold and decided front at the polls, and re- 
elects the former man. But the blow, which is to crush him, 
is already struck. His enemies are gathering strength. They 
even feel envious of him, that he is in a condition to display 
so much more energy than themselves. The minority of the 
party feel that it would be absurd that the majority should 
constantly yield to them. Besides, the new fashion of think- 
ing begins to infect themselves. They regard their favorite 
with coldness, simply because so many people are disposed to 
discard him. They even permit him to feel this, in order that 
he may so act toward them, as really to deserve their cold 
treatment. 

During all this time, and while these changes succeed each 
other, with more or less rapidity, the utmost inquisitiveness is 
excited among all orders of men. The connection which has 



CHAP. VIII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



177 



taken place between politics and private manners, brings the 
former more completely within the reach of every one. It 
seemed impossible before to gain admission to state secrets, 
so as to have any notion of the complex machinery by which 
government is worked, simply because there was so little to 
stir the feelings, and through that medium to rouse the under- 
standing. 

Tbis difficulty is in a great measure removed ; and in spite 
of the eternal wrangling of parties, or rather in cousequence 
of it, a greater amount of knowledge, a keener sagacity, and 
juster views, are created than would otherwise exist. Those 
who had formerly been invested with influence, and who 
imagined they were the hinges on which society turned, look 
on with amazement, to find public afiairs conducted as well as 
when they took the lead. They observe that an entire revolu- 
tion has taken place in the disposition and management of 
society. They ascribe this to envy, and doubtless envy had a 
great part in bringing it about. But, in human affairs, the 
inquiry is not always what is the cause of any particular 
change, so much as what is the character of the change itself. 
It is a great compensation for the existence of bad passions 
and propensities, when we cannot be without them, that they 
may ultimately be subservient toward rendering human nature 
better than it was before. 

Through the instrumentality of the cause at which I have 
merely glanced, in order to set the reader a thinking, knowl- 
edge has been diffused, and power and influence, in both pub- 
lic and private life, have been more evenly balanced in every 
township and county of an extensive country. These views 
contribute to explain a remarkable fact in the history of par- 
ties in America. Taking any considerable series of years, it 
is surprising to find how often parties have been very equally 
balanced. The see-saw politics of some of the states seems 
to be a reproach to them. But beneath this outside appear- 
ance there is always something to ponder upon. For if, on 
whichever side the scale of power inclines, the equilibrium of 
influence in every village and neighborhood is disturbed, the 
only way to restore it is by throwing more weight into the 
opposite scale, and thus the oscillations of parties may be 
almost as frequent as the annual elections. As soon as one 
12 



178 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book l 



party obtains a decided predominance, new rivalships grow 
up. A multitude of passions and desires (independent of the 
political controversies of the day,) are set in motion, for the 
purpose of displacing it, or diminishing its authority. 

Hence another apparently singular phenomenon, that indi- 
viduals of the most opposite political predilections, and of 
the greatest difference in point of character and mind, are 
habitually ranged in the same party. It would be deplorable 
if it were not so. And although one party is sometimes 
foolish enough to arrogate to itself all the virtue and talents 
in the community, yet there is, in truth, a very equal distribu- 
tion among the men of all parties. 

Another and equally curious fact may be noticed, that par- 
ties often seem to exhibit a mere struggle between the ins and 
outs. But if the power which is brought to bear upon politi- 
cal affairs is adjusted and regulated by the power and influ- 
ence which are distributed in private life, and if this affects 
human happiness more than all other causes put together, the 
struggle may conduct to very important ends. I have already 
said that in a republic, parties take the place of the old sys- 
tem of balances and checks. The latter balance the govern- 
ment only, the former balance society itself. 

Frequent changes of the public officers are a consequence 
of these vicissitudes among parties. But it is of the greatest 
importance, in a country where the electoral franchise is ex- 
tensively enjoyed, that as large a number of the citizens as 
practicable should be initiated into the mode of conducting 
public affairs, and there is no way by which this can be so 
well effected as by a rotation in office; and the direction, 
which party disputes take, affords the opportunity of doing 
it. If it were not for this, public employments would be con- 
tinued in the same individuals for life, and after their death 
would be perpetuated in their families. But public office, of 
even an inferior grade, is a species of discipline of no unim- 
portant character. It extends the views of men, trains them 
to the performance of justice, and makes them act for others 
as well as for themselves. It thus binds together the parts of 
society by the firmest of all bonds, and makes it tend con- 
stantly to a state of order and tranquility, in the midst of the 
greatest apparent disorder. If men were less quarrelsome; if 



CHAP. VIII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



179 



ail easy good nature was all that moved them, they would not 
be inclined to change their public officers as often as the in- 
terests of society demand. The detriment, which would fol- 
low, would be much greater than any which their quarrels 
produce. 

It has been supposed, that where these changes are frequent, 
the persons elected must, for the most part, be inexperienced 
and incompetent. The fear lest this should be the case is 
wisely implanted in our nature. It holds us back when we 
are about to run into an extreme. The feeling is as much a 
part of our constitution as any of its other tendencies, and 
must be strictly taken into account in every calculation which 
we make as to the general working of the system. But public 
office itself creates, to a great extent, the very ability which 
is required for the performance of its duties. And it is not 
at all uncommon, when individuals have been snatched up 
from the walks of private life to fill responsible stations, to 
find that the affairs of society are conducted pretty much 
upon the same principles, and with as much skill and intelli- 
gence as before. Habits of order and method are soon im- 
parted to the incumbent, and they constitute the moving 
spring of all effective exertion, either mental or physical. 

In a republic, the rise and fall of parties are not merely 
revolutions in public life, they are revolutions in private life 
also. They displace some men from office, but they alter the 
relative position of a much greater number in private life. 
Political controversies afford an opportunity for parties to 
develop themselves : and these controversies do very often 
present a legitimate field for discussion. But they do not 
contain everj thing; they do not express the whole meaniug of 
parties. A given scheme of public policy may affect very 
remotely the substantial interests of the population; but the 
jostling of men in private life is a perpetual source of uneasi- 
ness and discontent, and they seek to relieve themselves by 
an alliance with party, because, as individuals, they are pow- 
erless, while party associations are strong. 

The views and actions of men may be the most narrow and 
selfish imaginable, and yet they may terminate in conse- 
quences of the most beneficial character. The prominent 
men K)f each party exert themselves to carry extreme meas- 



180 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



ures ; a great multitude of private individuals intend to 
acquire some advantage unseen, but not unfelt, over their 
neighbors. The fall of a party at such a time, like a sudden 
stroke of adversity, quells the pride of the politician, and 
inculcates prudence, caution, and forbearance, in private be- 
havior. 

The reason why the workings of party are so much more 
ramified and extensive in a republic, than in any other form 
of government, is easily explained. In monarchy and aris- 
tocracy, the bulk of the people are spectators, not actors; and 
the operation of parties is necessarily confined within a nar- 
row circle. But free institutions presuppose that the mass of 
the people are active, not passive citizens, and parties not 
only regulate the conduct of the handful of men, who preside 
over public affairs; they regulate also the conduct of the mil- 
lions, who, although out of the government, yet constitute the 
springs which set the government in motion. If this were 
not the case, if there were no regulative principle to shake 
society, as well as to act upon the government, there would 
be no way of maintaining free institutions. Men who hold 
office may be punished for misconduct; but how is it possible 
by legal enactments to punish whole parties? When, how- 
ever, a party is tumbled from power, the individuals compos- 
ing it, lose caste — lose some portion of that consideration, 
which before attached to them. If this produces more bold- 
ness and recklessness in some, it promotes more reflection and 
prudence in others. 



CHAP. IX.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



181 



CHAPTER IX. 

A REPUBLIC IS ESSENTIALLY A GOVERNMENT OF RESTRAINT. 

No one who is an attentive observer of human nature, can 
fail to be struck with the amazing influence which the opinion 
of a multitude of men exercises over the mind. We can stand 
up and confront a single individual even though we are far 
from being right, but we recoil with a sort of dread from any 
opposition to the opinion of a great number. Many causes 
concur to produce this effect: 

First. If the individual feels awed by the presence of a 
multitude, it is because he is conscious that they are rendered 
strong by being in a body. This must necessarily be the case. 
Men are physically stronger when they act together, and they 
are morally stronger when they sympathize together. The 
phenomenon then is easily explained. The principle even 
shows why the individual is awed, where he is in the right, 
and the multitude clearly in the wrong. That multitude, so 
far as physical injury is concerned, is as strong as before; so 
far as moral injury is concerned, it is not near so strong; but 
it is much stronger than the individual. Their sympathy 
with one another is still a weapon of offence, agait st those 
who do not share in that sympathy. The individual then 
feels his weakness, because the sentiment of sympathy being 
a principle of his own nature, he is left without support, when 
he is entitled to the strongest. The first feel their strength 
as before, simply because sympathy is a principle of moral, as 
an actual union is of physical strength. The principle inani 
fests itself in another shape. When an individual is con- 
ceived to represent a multitude, no matter whether it is an 
enlightened or an unenlightened multitude, his presence to a 
certain extent, conveys an impression of their presence, and 
produces a similar effect. 



182 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book L 



The institution of patron aud client which prevailed in 
Bome for so long a time, is an illustration of the same prin- 
ciple. Individuals surrounded themselves with retainers, not 
merely to add to their physical power, but to increase their 
moral influence. The same custom was introduced into the 
republics of Florence, and Genoa, in the middle ages, and 
gave an artificial weigh: and importance to those who adopted 
it. Even in England, traces of the same custom are clearly 
discernible as late as the beginning of the sixteenth century. 
The practice of having a numerous body of retainers, and 
giving them badges, or liveries, was not put an end to, until 
1509, in the reign of Henry the Seventh. Even where no snch 
custom exists, we can still perceive indications of a disposition 
moving in the same direction. Everywhere we see men ally- 
ing themselves with other men, not merely openly as with 
parties, but tacitly with other individuals, in order to inspire 
themselves with confidence, and to give countenance to their 
behavior. In a democratic community, where individuals fear 
each other so much, the custom is difficult to be established, 
but the weapon of ridicule is wielded by cliques and coteries, 
as the most convenient mode of attack. 

Second. The notion of right and wrong is implanted in all 
men. That we should feel distress and anxiety when we do 
wrong, requires no explanation ; for this is running counter, 
if not to our propensities and passions, yet, at any rate, to the 
governing principle of our conduct. To say that we feel an 
immoral action to be wrong, whatever may be the allurements 
with which it is accompanied, is the same as to say that the 
sense of right is felt to be the authoritative priuciple, and that 
any departure from it fills us with uneasiness and apprehen- 
sion. 

But, in the second place, the training and formation of the 
human character are conducted in youth, when the mind is 
feeble and without much observation and experience. We 
therefore, emerge into a world where a system of opinions and 
couduct is already established, and it does not seem unnatural, 
but rather a necessary consequence of the process by which 
human conduct is shaped, that we should defer greatly to the 
standard of opinion which is erected, and our deportment (not 
so far as regards the fundamentals of morality, but) as regards 



CHAP. IX.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



183 



those actions to which are affixed the appellations fit and unfit, 
proper and improper, reasonable and unreasonable, should be 
compressed into a conformity with it, and that any revolt 
against it should be followed with a sense of dread and uneas- 
iness. And this more especially as so large a proportion of 
this class of actions affect other men, and carry along with 
them, not merely the force of opinion, but that of authority. 

If it should be said, that the presence of such a force, con- 
stantly acting upon the faculties of men, and holding them in 
check, must frequently have a disturbing influence upon their 
actions, this will be admitted; but there is, on the whole, 
much greater security for the preservation of a tolerably right 
standard, than if every one felt himself independent of the 
opinions of all. This singleness in . the character of the rule 
gives unity to those numberless actions which are isolated, 
and prevents their being drawn too exclusively in the direc- 
tion of self-interest. 

Each individual is apt to view himself from a point different 
from that where he is viewed by others. His horizou is more 
limited than theirs, not because he has fewer or feebler facul- 
ties, or because he has less correct notions of right, but 
because, in the case of the individual, these notions are liable 
to be obscured by feelings and interests which, although they 
may be common to all, are obliged to be kept uuder and re- 
strained, when they come to think and act in a body. There 
is a high probability, therefore, that the opinion of an indi- 
vidual as to his own conduct is biassed, and an equal proba- 
bility that the sentiment of the body is impartial. The mere 
apprehension that this may be the case hangs like a perpetual 
weight upon each one, and renders him, to say the least, more 
thoughtful and circumspect than he would otherwise be. He 
is thus better enabled, in those instances where he is in the 
right, and they in the wrong, to appeal from their judgment to 
the judgment of mankind. 

That class of actions which are generally denominated self- 
ish, carry for the most part their own antidote along with 
them. That they are selfish, constitutes the great protection 
of the community against their inroads. For it will be easily 
seen, that if there were the same sympathy with others in the 
gratification by them of their lower propensities, as there is 



184 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book I. 



in their noble and disinterested actions, the former would gain 
the mastery, and society be converted into a bedlam. How- 
ever men may act therefore in particular instances, both the 
secret and the declared opinion of every one is obliged to be 
on the side of right. And this opinion is even fortified by 
self-interest, when self-interest comes to be viewed from the 
proper point. For although the private interest of the indi- 
vidual may sometimes seem to coincide with the commission 
of wrong, when it is abstracted from all regard to his relations 
with others; yet it can never do so when these relations are 
taken into the account. Now our relations with others, if they 
do not create, at least modify, that whole circle of interests 
which we denominate private. I do not now speak of those 
actions which spring from the lower propensities, but of those 
which are employed by every one in the improvement of his 
outward condition. The pursuit of an absolutely separate in- 
terest by some would consequently break upon the private 
interests of all others ; while, at the same time it is equally 
clear that a regard for the rights of all others is the only 
guarantee that our own will be preserved. Here then, also, 
what is termed the general opinion is obliged to take a direc- 
tion favorable to the common weal, and unfavorable to the 
selfish views of individuals. In this way the opinion of all is 
brought to bear upon each ; and hence it is that in a demo- 
cratic republic, where the government appears to be wanting 
in authority, and individuals to possess unbounded freedom, 
what is termed public opinion is armed with so much power, 
inspires so general a respect for the laws, and so much terror 
on the infraction of them. In what is termed strong govern- 
ment, society is divided into fixed classes, one of which sits in 
judgment upon all the others. But it is far less probable, that 
the opinion of a class should represent the opinion of mankind, 
than that the combined sentiment of a whole community should 
do so. The laws having consecrated that class as a separate 
interest, have to that extent confounded the opinion of right 
with that of interest. 

It would appear, then, that liberty is essentially a principle 
of restraint. It is true, if others are free while I am not, the 
principle operates unequally — the restraint is on one side. 
But if I am admitted to the enjoyment of the same privilege, 



CHAP. IX.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



185 



my actions will impose a check upon the conduct of others, 
and their actions will impose a corresponding check upon me : 
and the influence of the principle will be more or less felt 
throughout the whole of society. The exercise of unrestricted 
freedom by all, when all are free, is a self-contradiction. It 
supposes a power in each to invade the rights of all others, in 
which case liberty would fall to the ground and no one be free. 
The possession of the privilege then by all, limits its exercise 
in practice, and men are restrained and controlled, precisely 
because they are free. My liberty of action is an habitual 
restraint upon the conduct of others, when they attempt to 
invade my rights, and their liberty is in similar circumstances 
a restraint upon me. It would not therefore be strong enough 
to say that where free institutions are thoroughly diffused, it 
is the evident interest of every one to impose a restraint upon 
his actions. It would be still more correct to say, that the 
constitution of society renders it necessary that he should 
do so. 

The walks of private life furnish us with a fine illustration 
of this important principle. The youth looks forward to the 
time when he will arrive at manhood, with feelings of delight 
aud exultation. His imagination paints it as the introduction 
to a state of unalloyed enjoyment. But he has no sooner en- 
tered upon the world, than he finds himself hampered and 
controlled on every side by a multitude of other beings who 
have acquired the same freedom as himself. The restraint 
which he met with under the parental roof was nothing when 
compared with the iron weight which now presses upon him ; 
and although no one can claim to be his master, so that phys- 
ically his actions may be freer than ever, yet he finds, what 
before he very imperfectly understood, that the moral force 
which men exercise upon each other in society, is the sharpest 
and most powerful of all kinds of restraint. 

Now, free institutions produce an effect of precisely the same 
character, and on a much larger scale. They advance the 
whole population to the condition of political manhood. If 
they do not confer anything like the enjoyment which was" 
anticipated, they give rise to what is still more valuable: they 
multiply the cares and interests of life, and teach to the great 
majority of men habits of prudence, of reflection, and of self- 



186 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book l 



command. That they do not produce this effect in all instances, 
and in very few to the extent which is desirable, is no answer 
to the view here taken ; nor does it afford any good reason 
why we should never speak above our breath, when we are 
discoursing of the benefits of liberty. That there is a marked 
tendency to the production of the effect I have noticed, is ac 
important fact, since it shows that if liberty is power, it is 
also a principle of restraint. And if a general acquaintance 
with the manner in which the principle operates, will con- 
tribute to strengthen this tendency, we have abundant reasous 
for speaking out all that we know. 

When I make reference to the mighty influence which the 
opinion of a multitude of men exercise over the human mind, 
I do not shut my eyes to the fact, that the principle may ope- 
rate sometimes, nay, that it does very frequently operate, so 
as to have a sinister and very pernicious influence, by giving 
an undue authority to associations and particular sections of 
society. I am aware that in this way a party, nay, even a 
clique, whether in public or private life, may acquire such 
dominion for a time, as to incommode and afflict great numbers 
of other men. Parties collect the opinions of a multitude into 
one focus, and make them appear like the judgment of an in- 
visible being. They have been able therefore sometimes to 
oppress the most upright individuals, and even to countenance 
acts of insurrection against the public authority. Xo one has 
ever mastered a general principle, until he is cognizant of all 
the leading exceptions to it. The argument in favor of free 
institutions, therefore, never proceeds upon the ground that 
they are exempt from imperfections; but that they are more 
so than any other form in which government has been cast, 
as much so as we dare expect from any scheme which human 
ingenuity may invent. 

That invisible power which we term public opinion, only 
tends to be right, in proportion as it resembles itself to the 
opinion of mankind. And I cannot help thinking, that this 
effect will take place in proportion to the number of men who 
are in the possession of liberty, and who on that very account, 
are driven to habits of thought and reflection. The parties 
and cliques which spring up in a republic, however noisome 



CHAP. IX. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



187 



and hurtful they may be iu some respects, may contribute to 
further this important end. For: 

First. They either presuppose, or they excite to, an abund- 
ance of curiosity, observation and inquiry. Instead of one 
or two great eminences, and all the rest of society a dead 
level, we have a great many eminences, helping about as well 
as human imperfections will permit to lift the great body of 
the population to a higher condition. 

Second. These parties, associations, and cliques, become 
so numerous in a republic, that they thwart, counteract, and 
control one another. Their frequent discussions and wrang- 
ling lead directly to the detection of each other's impostures, 
and serve to correct the aberrations into which the different 
sections of society are perpetually falling. By modifying, and 
limiting each othei's views and opinions, public opinion is 
brought more and more into an accordance with the voice of 
mankind. It is an immense boon to society when, if anything 
is transacted in society which is prejudicial to its interests, it 
shall at any rate not be done in a corner : that all who act for 
the public, or upon the public, in order to acquire any influ- 
ence, are compelled to act openly. The so doing is the recog- 
nition of the existence of a tribunal of opinion above them- 
selves, which sooner or later rejects all their false and per- 
nicious opinions. Perhaps the majority of persons of intelli- 
gence and observation — all who have carefully pondered upon 
the experience which they have had of human nature, and 
fiom it deduced general results — instead of being y perplexed 
by the exceptions, are sufficiently convinced of the wholesome 
influence which free institutions exercise. The only question 
with them may be, whether it is ever expedient to speak out 
so loud as to be overheard by the masses. 

It is not necessary to scan American institutions with a 
very critical eye, to perceive that notwithstanding the great 
amount of liberty which is set afloat, and the imflammable 
character which this liberty sometimes possesses, that there 
is some how or other a sort of self-regulative principle residing 
in the society, which tends to keep everything in its proper 
place : that this principle can no where else be so distinctly 
traced, and that it is entirely different from the formal author- 
ity which the government wields. And as there is no reason 



188 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book l 



for supposing that there is anything very mysterious about 
the matter, when all the machinery of society is openly ex- 
posed to our observation, the fact, however novel, must admit 
of explanation, and what explanation so natural as is to be 
found in the restraint which the very enjoyment of liberty 
causes every individual, and each member of society, to im- 
pose upon one another. It is the partial distribution of the 
privilege, not the communication of it to all classes, which 
has occasioned so much disorder and insubordination in so- 
ciety. Eights and duties are reciprocal. My rights in relation 
to others are the foundation of their duties toward me, and 
their rights give rise to a set of corresponding obligations on 
my part. Hence we may say, in a general way, that the equal 
communication of liberty, by enlarging the circle of duties in 
the same proportion as it widens the sphere of rights, tends 
constantly toward the introduction of a principle ot restraint, 
which reaches more or less every part of society. Not that 
the American people are naturally better than the people of 
other countries, but that the political and social organization 
renders it the interest of a greater number to respect and 
obey the laws, and that this feeling of interest operates in 
such a way as to have not merely a persuasive, but a coersive 
influence. Not that there are not many evils incident to 
American society, but that there are fewer than in other gov- 
ernments, especially when we take into account those secret 
and uncomplained-of grievances, which are smothered by tbe 
hand of power, or which are made to appear insignificant 
amid the dazzling glare of the throne and aristocracy. Lord 
Coke has said of the court of star chamber, that " the right 
institution, and orders thereof, being observed, it doth keep 
all England in quiet." And if such extravagant and un- 
founded notions could be entertained in that period, we may 
be permitted at the present day, to search through society for 
some more homely, and yet more active and diffusive, princi- 
ple of order. 

There are two opposite plans of introducing order and good 
government into society. The one consists in arming the civil 
magistrate with a very large share of authority, and thus 
making every one feel as if an enemy were at his door. The 
other, not unmindful of the importance of clothing the public 



CHAP. IX.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



189 



functionaries with ample power, is yet chiefly intent on en- 
larging the sphere of popular rights. It expects to fortify 
the authority of government in this very way. The first is 
the plan of almost all the European governments: the second 
is that of the American republic. By pursuing the last, we 
add an additional force to society — we cause the people to 
control each other, as well as to be controlled by the authority 
of the laws. The working of the same principle may be ob- 
served in one or two of the European communities: but it 
manifests itself in exact proportion to the degree in which 
popular liberty has grown up. 

It is not placing an undue estimate upon free institutions, 
therefore, to say that in a republic, the distribution of justice, 
and general administration of the laws, will be attended with 
more weight and authority, than in either monarchial or aris- 
tocratic government. The fact is of the greatest consequence, 
since it enables us to draw so near the solution of the very 
difficult problem, how to reconcile popular liberty with politi- 
cal power. The experiment was deemed perilous in the 
extreme, until the firm establishment and thorough working 
of American institutions, when what was once a brilliant 
theory began to wear the character of a regular and well- 
compacted system. Sir James Mackintosh was perhaps the 
first English statesman who clearly descried a principle of 
order in this new community. The living under such institu- 
tions for a considerable period, might beget habits of acting 
which would insure their perpetuity, was very nearly the 
remark of that enlightened man. Many intelligent Europeans 
still hesitate. The difficulty of the experiment may be at an 
end in America: but they feel unable to calculate the exact 
amount of influence which American institutions may exert 
upon their own. They therefore prefer to exercise the obvious 
duty of patriotism, rather than to seem precipitate in espous- 
ing the most salutary principles. There is nothing so difficult 
and iik some as the taking up a line of, conduct, however wise 
and reasonable it may be, provided it is something entirely 
foreign to our former habits. Its claim to respect only in- 
creases the awe which its novelty is calculated to inspire; but 
the plan once entered upon, it is amazing how fast the difficul- 
ties vanish, and how easily the new habit sits upon us. What 



190 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book K 



is true of an individual, is, for obvious reasons, still more true 
with regard to a community. 

If in Great Britain and France, there exists at the present 
day more public order, as well as a firmer and more regular 
administration of the laws, than at any antecedent period, I 
do not know to what cause we must ascribe it, unless it is to 
the infusion of a greater amount ot popular freedom into the 
institutions of the two countries. Invariably, a wise and 
liberal communication of liberty has the effect of appeasing, 
instead of inflaming the passions. But more than this, where 
the population only feels the pressure of their government, 
they are apt to herd together like miserable sheep; they are 
unconscious of any other danger than that which stares them 
in the face, and take little or no account of each other's 
actions, although these exercise so wide and so constant an 
influence upon the public weal. I think if anyone will follow 
carefully and minutely the workings of American society, he 
will find that the people are fully as much occupied in keeping 
each other in order, as they are in checking the authority of 
their governments. It is only by doing the first, that they 
succeed in doing the last. 

In a democratic republic, public opinion is a thing of more 
comprehensive import than it is anywhere else ; and it is made 
to bear more extensively upon delinquents, public or private. 
In the artificial forms of government, the force of society is 
wielded by the few. It is an iron armor worn by a class set 
apart. The consequence is, that although the great bulk of 
society stands in awe of it, they also most cordially detest it, 
since whatever we fear, we also hate, and whatever we both 
hate and fear, we endeavor to beat down, openly if we can, 
furtively if we must. But in a country of free institutions, I 
discern a marked difference in the feeling of all classes, where 
crime has been committed, or insurrection set on foot. The 
guilty persons, as soon as they have time to reflect, are con- 
scious that they are under the ban of public opinion. They 
whisper to themselves, "it is not a privileged class who seek 
to trample upon us; it is our fellow citizens whom we have 
arrayed against us; the judgment of mankind will condemn 
us." Such very nearly was the exclamation of one of the 
actors in an American mob. This species of awe has a won- 



CHAP. IX.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



191 



derful effect in crumbling to pieces the stoutest league which 
was ever formed. The insurgents soon feel themselves to be 
powerless, their weapons drop from their hands, they fall off 
one by one, and seek to hide themselves from public view. 
The general truth of these remarks is abundantly confirmed, 
not only by the few instances of civil commotion which have 
occurred in the United States, but by the remarkable facility 
with which they have been suppressed. 

This subject is obviously one of great and of increasing 
interest, and very naturally suggests many other very import- 
ant views. In the first place, it must be admitted that hardlv 
any instance of insubordination to the laws occurs in the 
United States, but what we hear complaint of the indecision 
and backwardness of the public magistrates, at the commence- 
ment of the affair. Whenever any circumstance is observable 
in the political history of this country, which is different from 
what takes place elsewhere, there is to say the least, a high 
probability that there is some adequate reason for it and 
that it is not necessary to suppose, because the precise mode 
of executing the laws which is practiced in other governments 
is not adopted there, that therefore the American police is 
very defective, or that it is infected with the same spirit of 
licentiousness which is displayed in other parts of society. 
The complaints which are uttered, the uneasiness which takes 
possession of all classes, lest the laws should not be executed, 
are themselves unequivocal symptoms of the soundness of 
public sentiment, and of the operation of that moral force 
which is of so much consequence in guardiug the peace of 
society. Iu the second place, this apparent laxity in enforcing 
the laws, is in great part attributable to the few public dis- 
turbances which take place, and to the fact, that they are iu va- 
riably of a local character. The American police, if 1 may 
use the expression, have not got their hand in — they have sel- 
dom had the opportunity to become initiated into the practice 
of using brute force. An insurrection does not, as in other 
countries, threaten to sap the foundations of government, and 
to carry desolation into the heart of society. The Americans 
can afford, therefore, to proceed with a little more caution 
and deliberation than other governments. It is the strong, 
not the weak, who are most sparing of their strength. 



192 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book i. 



Third. This caution is the result of another circumstance 
which is equally calculated to engage our attention. It springs 
from a conviction which, whether openly expressed or not, is 
constantly felt, that one side is not necessarily altogether in 
the right, and the other altogether in the wrong. The Ameri- 
cans have got to acting upon this principle as one of some ap- 
preciable value, and do not permit it to remain as a barren 
and unfruitful maxim in the code of ethics. It pervades both 
public and private society, in all their ramifications, and yet 
the supremacy of the laws is firmly upheld. 

Fourth. This wise prudence, this apparent slowness to act, 
causes less mischief to be done, and restores order more 
speedily and effectually, than if a detachment from a standing 
army were commanded instantly to shoot down the rioters. 
The shocking enormities of the French revolution were not 
put an end to until the middle class took matters into its 
own hands, and by intervening between the two extreme 
parties, was enabled to exert both more prudence and more 
resolution. The great difference between the two countries is, 
that in America the population is almost entirely composed of 
this middle class. That is done constantly and silently, and 
by way of prevention, which in France could only be effected 
after the two parties had shed torrents of blood. 

A habitual desire to avoid, if practicable, all extreme meas- 
ures, is eminently favorable toward rousing reflection, and 
inspires all who would make opposition to the laws with a 
sense of insecurity and distrust in themselves. They see that 
the moral and physical force of society are against them, and 
they very soon learn that the forbearance which springs from 
humanity is invariably coupled with bravery, and that it is 
the invariable precursor of the most resolute and determined 
behavior. The government, which is strong enough to use 
forbearance in every act of authority, is sure to gather all the 
strength which the occasion demands. No baud of men, how- 
ever imposing it may be, can maintain a conflict of any dura- 
tion with the public authority, unless it can go beyond itself, 
and derive support from public opinion. 

Various conjectures have been hazarded, in order to account 
for the remarkable order and tranquility which have existed 
in the United States. The most plausible are those which 



CHAP. IX.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



193 



ascribe it to the exemption of the country from foreign war, 
and to the incessant occupation which the several departments 
of industry afford to the population. But in truth, these are 
only auxiliary circumstances, very well fitted to give full play 
to the operation of some other principle, but insufficient of 
themselves to account for the phenomenon. Very opposite 
effects have frequently taken place. A season of peace has 
sometimes been highly favorable to the growth of internal dis- 
sensions and conspiracies of every kind. In the Italian re- 
publics of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the period 
of their greatest prosperity, the suspension of foreign war 
was invariably the signal for reviving the most implacable 
disputes within. The various branches of industry offered an 
inexhaustible fund of occupation to the people ; for Italy was 
then the greatest agricultural country in Europe ; and was 
also the principal seat of commerce and manufactures. But 
in examining the constitutions of those states, we fiud that no 
higher political privileges were accorded to the people, than 
are possessed in the most of the monarchical governments 
now existing, and not near so high as are enjoyed by the 
English commonalty. 

The Italian nobles looked upon government as an institu- 
tion made for their benefit, and spent the lives and property 
of the citizens to gratify their personal ambition. The liberty 
which they possessed was not met by a corresponding liberty 
in other parts of society. The people were held in restraint, 
but there was no principle of restraint to operate upon the 
superior classes. Too little freedom in one quarter leads 
directly to too much power in another, and the very natural 
consequence is, an eternal conflict between the different orders 
of society. The foreign wars which have scourged the Euro- 
pean states, have been the effect rather than the cause of the 
discontents and unequal condition of the population. 

The wisest plan then, perhaps the only practicable one in 
the end, for all countries, is that pursued in America : to com- 
municate equal rights to the people — to throw them indis- 
criminately together, instead of dividing them into fixed or- 
ders. They are then compelled to associate freely, and this 
ultimately ripens into a confirmed habit. Individuals and 
classes then act as a perpetual restraint upon each other. 
13 



194 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book l 



They are brought to au easy understanding of all these diffi- 
culties and iuterests which, under a different constitution of 
society lead to interminable feuds. Doubtless people incom- 
mode each other very much in a country of free institutions, 
but this is the secret of the good effect which takes place. 
They are made to act as watches upon each other, to consult 
each other's temper and disposition, to balance the great ad- 
vantage of acting from reflection. They become keenly alive to 
each other's faults, simply because they have so deep a stake 
in each other's conduct. A new force is applied to society, 
which acts in detail, and not merely in the gross, and which, 
by regulating the conduct of individuals in the first instance, 
succeeds ultimately in regulating that of the masses. The 
machinery may be very imperfect after all, but it is the best 
which is placed in our power. Free institutions are the only 
instrument on a large scale for elevating the general couditiou 
of the people, because they are the only species of govern- 
ment which is capable of beiug converted into an instrument 
of moral and not merely of political discipline, for all classes. 

As the preservation of order, the maintenance of the laws, 
the causing one part of society to be just to all others, are the 
great end of civil institutions, it is plain that unless the re- 
publican form contains some active principle of restraint, 
which shall take the place of the consolidated authority exer- 
cised by other governments, it will be no better than monarchy 
or aristocracy. 

The tendency to reflection has been noticed as one of the 
striking characteristics of modern societies. Everything seems 
to depend upon the cultivation of this quality. Reflection is 
what distinguishes the civilized man from the savage ; and it 
is reflection which makes some men lovers of order, while 
others are vicious, and disorderly. In the midst of civiliza- 
tion, we are always surrounded by some remains of barbarous 
life. The great desideratum in politics is, how and to what 
extent we can get rid of them. Now the principle of equality 
is eminently calculated to teach habits of reflection. First, 
it makes men depend very much upon themselves, taxes their 
own resources, and obliges them to make exertions which they 
would otherwise never put forth. Second, it brings them 
more into contact with each other, and thus multiplies their 



CHAP. IX.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



195 



mutual relations: since all our efforts to better our own condi- 
tion have an immediate reference to others; and whatever 
multiplies the relations of man to man, enlarges the whole 
field of observation, and gives more both to think and to act 
upon. It may be that at some future day, it will not be nec- 
essary for some men to be vicious, in order to compel others 
to be virtuous. The principle of equality may cause jostling 
enough among men to keep them in order, without that wild 
license which not only makes them touch at every point, but 
causes them to trample on each other. 

I cannot help thinking, that they who suppose when the 
population of America has grown to its full complement it will 
be exceedingly difficult to uphold free institutions, have mag- 
nified the danger arisiDg from that source, or rather, that they 
have mistaken the influence which that circumstance will exert 
upon the destiny of the country. The denser the population 
becomes, the more will the people be brought into close prox- 
imity with each other, and the more rigorous will be the con- 
trol which they will mutually exercise. This may be regarded 
as a law of society which, unless it is countervailed by other 
circumstances, is certain and invariable in its operation. It is 
a wise provision, and one productive of the most salutary con- 
sequences; the check increases in intensity, in proportion to 
the need which we have for it. More tranquility prevails 
among the European communities, than when their population 
was one-third or one-fourth of what it is now. To refer to the 
general progress of civilization would be reasoning in a circle, 
for the progress of civilization is itself in great part attribu- 
table to the increase of the population. The vast empire of 
China, where civilization has been stationary as far back as 
history goes, seems to show that the density of the population 
is not merely not adverse to the maintenance of tranquility, 
but that it is highly favorable to it. The form of civilization 
is greatly below what exists in Europe and the United States, 
but it is superior to that which exists in the South American 
states. 

I know few things better calculated powerfully to arrest our 
attention, than the fact that, during two years (I think 1835 
and 1836), there was not a single execution in London. Lon- 
don is itself an immense community ; and that amid such dis- 



196 NATURE AND TENDENCY [booki. 

cordant elements, such an eternal jangling of interests, such 
a craving of all sorts of wants and desires, so much order and 
tranquillity should be maintained, is to say the least, a strik- 
ing fact in the history of society. Nor is this state of things 
an accidental one. The diminution of crime, for a series of 
years before, had been very regular. The convictions for mur- 
der, and for assaults with intent to murder, were, for a period 
of ten years, commencing with 1816, no more in London than 
they were in New Orleans during the same time. The popula- 
tion of the one was not more than thirty-five thousand, of the 
other a million and a half. In the United States, it is in the 
thinly settled states of the west and south-west that outrages 
are most frequently committed, and the authority of the laws 
set at defiance. Those states, without doubt, contain an ex- 
ceedingly sound population ; but great numbers of the profli- 
gate emigrate to them, because they know they will be less 
exposed to the surveillance and control of others, than they 
would be amid the fuller population of the older states. If it 
should be said that this state of things is owing to a defective 
administration of the laws, it may be answered that this defect 
would be cured by a more numerous population. Public opin- 
ion is the most effectual auxiliary in the execution of the laws ; 
but public opinion is necessarily feeble where the settlements 
are, to a considerable extent, composed of wandering adven- 
turers. Those states are rapidly passing through the same 
purifying process which all the others have gone through. 
They will ultimately contain as sound, because they will con- 
tain as dense, a population as other parts of the union. 

The reason then, why the control which the parts of society 
exert upon each other is more stringent and more active as the 
population increases, is obvious. Individuals, and collections 
of individuals, are placed more completely within reach of each 
other, and have a more immediate interest in each other's con- 
duct. No one can then exercise his faculties, or perform any 
action however insignificant, without affecting many others. 
Each individual acts as a sentinel upon his neighbor, and 
thus, through the co-operation of all, the private interest of 
each is rendered as consistent as possible with the interest of 
all. 

There are then two sorts of control existing in society; the 



CHAP. IX.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



197 



one a control on the part of the government, the other of the 
people upon each other. The last is a most important element 
in the social organization of the present day. 

Free institutions give force to both species of control. The 
principle of equality which pervades them brings individuals 
into closer juxtaposition ; and the check which these habitu- 
ally exert upon one another's behavior not only familiarizes 
them to the authority of the government, but greatly interests 
them in upholding it, since the laws are only intended to ac- 
complish what the great majority of private persons are aim- 
ing at, but which they are too feeble to effect. 



\ 



BOOK II. 



CHAPTER I. 

WRITTEN CONSTITUTIONS. 

The formation of a written constitution is one of the most 
decisive steps which has been made toward the establishment 
of free institutions. It implies the exercise of reflection in its 
highest degree, an ability to frame the most comprehensive 
rules, and to make application of them to the actual affairs of 
men. Most governments are easily enough initiated iuto the 
-art of governing the people ; but a written constitution is a 
scheme, by which the governors themselves are proposed to be 
governed. The commencement of this very important move- 
ment is of recent date. We cannot carry it further back than 
the era of the American revolution. For although a few exam- 
ples have been handed down to us from antiquity, and one or 
two attempts of the same kind are recorded in European his- 
tory, prior to 1776, the. differences are so numerous, and so 
fundamental, that we are not entitled to range them in the 
same class with the American constitutions. It sometimes 
happens, that a mere difference in degree between two things 
is so wide as to place an absolute distinction between them, 
and to render them opposite, instead of resemblances of one 
another. The constitutions of antiquity confounded what we 
would characterize as political ordinances with the acts of or 
dinary legislation. This was the case in the code of the Ro- 
man decemvirs, and it was equally so in the systems intro- 
duced by the Athenian and Spartan lawgivers. One design 
of a written constitution, is to define the boundary between 
political and civil laws. For as it is not intended that the 



200 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



two should have an equally authoritative character, it is not 
intended that they should have an equally durable form. This 
incongruous mixture of two things so different was therefore 
an infirmity. It showed that the mind had not jet got so far, 
as to be able to analyze its ideas in matters of government ; 
no matter whether this analysis is the product of great learn- 
ing, or whether it is the result of a long course of experience. 
Not to estimate the difference between two things, is not to 
understand the nature of one of them at least ; and so to make 
one, or both, occupy an unfit place in the system which we 
construct. 

This subject has given occasion to very important discus- 
sions in France, since the establishment of constitutional mon- 
archy ; and it has sometimes required the efforts of the most 
enlightened French statesmen, to prevent the error I have 
alluded to from being committed in " the charte." Once set- 
tle the relative powers of the different departments of govern- 
ments, and the office of the legislative body will be plain 
enough. Its power will be better guarded, and yet will be 
more full, and ample, than it would otherwise be. The va- 
ried exigencies of society, the unforseen changes which take 
place in human affairs, the slow accumulation of that wisdom 
which flows from experience, all demand, that once the orbit 
within which the legislature is to move is marked out, a 
large and liberal discretion should be given to it in the enact- 
ment of laws. 

But that which places the greatest imaginable difference be- 
tween the constitutions of antiquity and those of the United 
States, is that the former were in no sense the offspring of the 
popular will ; while on the contrary, the latter have emanated 
directly from the people. The same may be said of those 
European states which now have written constitutions. Those 
constitutions have been the gift of some self-constituted law- 
giver, or have been imposed by bodies of men who very 
imperfectly represented the supreme authority of the state. 

The constitutions of antiquity showed clearly enough, that 
there were among the citizens some individuals of contempla- 
tive and cultivated minds. But they indicated nothing further. 
They afforded no evidence that those great truths, which lie at 
the foundation of all just and legitimate government, were 



CHAP. I.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



201 



seized and appreciated by the people at large ; or rather they 
afford incontestible proof to the contrary. A conjectural plan 
of government is as easily drawn up as any other composi- 
tion ; which is one reason, perhaps, why many otherwise en- 
lightened understandings affect to treat all such works very 
lightly. A constitution which deals in certain pre-conceived 
general principles, and seeks to mould the affairs of men into 
a conformity with them, is very different from a system of 
government which undertakes to arrive at the knowledge of 
fundamental maxims, by availing itself of a vast fund of ex- 
perience and observation existing among the people them- 
selves. The American constitutions were for this reason a 
really difficult and arduous achievement. The difficulty did 
not consist in the degree, but in the extent, of intellect neces- 
sary tor the occasion. A plan of government in which the 
popular will has had a direct agency, presupposes a very wide 
diffusion of intelligence, and this at once stamps upon the un- 
dertaking both a practical and a comprehensive character. 
Lord Somers and his colleagues, who took the lead in the rev- 
olution of 1689 ; Benjamin Constant and Lafayette, who took 
the lead in the kindred revolution of 1830, were the real think- 
ers and actors on those occasions. But Hamilton and Madi- 
son, equally great names, who took the lead in the formation 
of the American constitution, were but spokesmen of the pop- 
ular will. Hence the profound and impressive debates which 
took place at that time in popular assemblies ; and hence the 
necessity which was felt of laying before the public a full ex- 
position of the proposed plan of government. The letters of 
Publius are, in this respect, perfectly unique. No similar pro- 
duction is recorded in the history of ancient or modern civili- 
zation. 

Some of the remarks I have made are applicable with still 
more force to the attempts which have been made, by indi- 
viduals of ingenious and powerful understandings, to frame 
schemes of government for a whole people. We might as well 
tear out of the volumes of Plato, Harrington, or Mr. Hume, 
the plans of a republic which they conceived, and ordain them 
as constitutions, as to call Mr. Lock's and the Abbe Sieve's 
efforts by that name. 

Nor is there any reason for surprise, that the popular mind, 



202 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



and not merely the popular will, should have so direct an 
agency in the formation of a constitution of government, as 
is manifestly the case in America. If the mere addition 
which a life of the closest study and the greatest learning, 
makes to the mind of the highest capacities, is not so great as 
the knowledge which is possessed by the man of the most un- 
tutored understanding, a fact of which there can be no doubt, 
there is nothing unnatural in the supposition that the plainest 
men, when they are placed in a situation favorable to the ac- 
quisition and realization of a large amount of political expe- 
rience, should not only be equal to such an undertaking, but 
that without their co-operation no such undertaking can be 
understandingly executed. 

Some persons, eminent for their intelligence, have occasion- 
ally hazarded the assertion, that there is no force in constitu- 
tions on paper, and that we should be as well without them. 
Admitting that it is fair thus to withdraw the mind from the 
all-important consideration, that a constitution which is the 
work of the popular mind, marks an entirely new era in the 
history of society ; no opinion can well be conceived, which is 
more completely behind the age in which we live. 

The reasoning which has been relied upon to sustain this 
strange assertion, would be equally conclusive to prove that 
there is no force in written laws. And yet it is plain that 
without written laws, society would be a scene of discord and 
confusion. The occasional violation of a constitution would 
not even help to prove the assertion. The laws are repeat- 
edly violated, and yet no one lays his head upon his pillow 
without feeling a wonderful sense of security under their pro- 
tection. Even the English " magna charta," an instrument 
far less comprehensive in its scope, and possessing therefore 
much fewer guaranties, than an American constitution, was 
repeatedly violated, but it constituted a landmark amid all 
the troubles of the day, and the English monarchs were com- 
pelled to ratify and re-ratify it, until it acquired a weight and 
authority which no one was strong enough to throw off. 

The precise and definite form which writing gives to our 
ideas, renders it an indispensable auxiliary in reducing those 
ideas to practice, and in spreading their influence over an ex- 
tensive country. If instances are to be found where commu- 



CHAP. I ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



203 



nities have been governed with considerable wisdom, without 
written constitutions, this is either because there has been 
some approach to one, some resemblance to an instrument, 
which, however imperfect, has acquired the sanction of suc- 
cessive generations of men, or such communities have lived in 
close fellowship, have been bound in an intimate reliance with 
others, which had written constitutions, and were moreover 
obliged by the league of which they were members, to owe 
allegiance to a federal constitution. The first is the case of 
England, the second that of Connecticut and Rhode Island. 
But all three of these examples prove that there is great force 
in written constitutions. 

A written constitution is a repository of tried and experi- 
enced truths, with an authoritative sanction accompanying it, 
capable of being appealed to in all times of party conflict, 
when the minds of men are tormented by the danger of civil 
commotion, and when every means which is calculated to fix 
reflection, and to steady the public mind, is of so much import- 
ance to the peace of society. 

In every department of life, it has been found that the col- 
lection of human experience and wisdom into some visible 
organ capable of making a sensible and durable impression on 
the mind, was the only way to give a fixed and permanent 
direction to the actions of men. It cannot be otherwise then 
with civil government, where the body of rules which are 
adopted has this additional advantage, that it is the result of 
a deliberate compact between the members of the community. 
It would be much more reasonable to assert, that there was no 
utility in system of religious doctrines, or a system of educa- 
tion, in a code of jurisprudence, or in the rules which are 
adopted for the army and navy, than to affirm that there is no 
force in a body of fundamental ordinances for the government 
of the state. 

We may pronounce of a country, in which a written consti- 
tution has been framed by delegates chosen by the people, 
that it is from that very circumstance placed entirely beyond 
the reach of monarchical or aristocratical institutions. A 
change in the structure of society, so thorough and so deci- 
sive, is absolutely incompatible with the existence of either 
of those forms of government. But this change may take 



204 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



place, although the great body of the people are not advanced 
to the highest pitch of intelligence, or to anything like an 
equal degree of intelligence. The system of common schools 
has existed in New England for more than two hundred years ; 
and yet great inequalities still exist, and will forever exist, in 
the capacities of the men who inhabit it. But as there is a 
certain limit, beyond which knowledge must not advance, in 
order to insure the existence of any one of the artificial forms 
of government; so there is also a limit beyond which knwol- 
edge need not advance, in order to insure the establishment 
of free institutions. 

Those rules which govern the interests of large collections 
of men, are never so recondite as those which are obtained 
by the study of the individual alone. And if we examine the 
history of any of the great revolutions which have changed 
the condition and destiny of the human race, it will be found 
that the leading ideas — those which presided over the whole 
movement — were the simplest imaginable. Let us take, for 
an example, the Protestant reformation. The principles with 
which the great reformer set out, and which were his constant 
weapon from the commencement to the close of the contro- 
versy, were so plain, so homely, so easy to be understood and 
handled by the unlettered man, that men of refined learning 
were puzzled to find out, how it was possible to create so 
great and so general a movement through the instrumentality 
of such trifling propositions. The public debates which took 
place throughout Germany seemed to turn upon mere truisms 
and puerilities. And yet these apparent puerilities could not 
be battered down by the greatest amount of learning which 
was brought to bear upon them. 

It is the same with all the important and salutary revolu- 
tions which take place in civil society. The governing ideas 
are few and easily comprehended, because they contain gen- 
eral truths ; and the truths are general because they have 
reference to the interests of large collections of men. A 
highly intelligent man, who had been a member of the Ameri- 
can legislature, remarked to me, that u he must give up all 
his notions as to the incompetency of farmers to legislate for 
the community. They have both more sagacity and more 
information than I had at all calculated upon." 



CHAP. I.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



205 



The establishment of constitutional government in the 
United States has given a decided impulse to the public mind 
in Europe. Ten or twelve of the Europenn states have 
adopted written constitutions. But none of them rest upon 
the same firm foundation as in America. A written constitu- 
tion, emanating from the popular will, while the government 
was monarchical or aristocratical in character, would be a 
solecism in politics. Neither of those governments could pos- 
sibly survive the establishment of such an instrument. If 
not immediately annihilated, they must speedily fall to decay. 
Men, whatever their physical strength may be, must at least 
have a fit atmosphere to breathe in. So that we must either 
say that the diffusion of knowledge is incompatible with the 
solid interests of mankind, or that monarchy and aristocracy 
are incompatible with the existence of constitutional govern- 
ment in its legitimate sense. There cannot be two inconsist- 
ent rules, at one and the same time, for the government of a 
community ; the one founded upon the general interests, the 
other upon some particular interests only. One or the other 
must give way ; and it is easy to see which will ultimately 
have the advantage, amid the general spread of knowledge 
which we witness in the nineteenth century. Where resides 
the moral power of the community, there also will be found 
to reside its physical power. The maxim, that power is con- 
stantly sliding from the many to the few, is false in a repub- 
lic. The tendency is directly the reverse. The maxim is true 
only where the political institutions are unfavorable to the de- 
velopment and spread of knowledge, and where every con- 
trivance has been employed to render the affairs of govern- 
ment complicated and mysterious in the extreme, and so to 
impress the popular miud with a conviction, not only that it 
has no right, but that it has no sort of ability, to bear any 
part in them. 

But however imperfect the European constitutions may be, 
they are a great step toward the establishment of regular 
government. No event which has occurred in that quarter of 
the globe affords more signal evidence of the general advance 
of society. A written constitution never adds to, but always 
substracts from, the power which previously existed. It is 
not only an open recognition of certain general principles fa- 



206 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



vorable to liberty, but it is obliged to make a definite appli- 
cation of these principles. What was obtained when the com- 
munity was struggling for freedom, can with difficulty be re- 
called when it has arrived at greater maturity. For a written 
constitution, together with the body of new laws which it 
gives occasion to, acts directly upon the manners, diffuses 
more inquisitiveness and information, and inspires all classes 
with a greater degree of self-confidence. The ability to guard 
the institutions is derived from the influence which the insti- 
tutions have themselves created. There may be still more 
progress, but there will rarely ever be a retrogade movement. 

The French "ckarte" is the most remarkable of the Euro- 
pean constitutions. It was wrested from the king. And this 
indicates, at least, that knowledge and liberty have acquired 
sufficient strength to make a vigorous protest against the 
unlimited authority of kings. The leading men in the king- 
dom were obliged to fall in with this movement, in order to 
sustain their own influence, but they have contributed, how- 
ever unwillingly, to strengthen the popular will. The " tiers 
etat," a name which once startled the ear, has become a body 
of acknowledged importance in the state. 

The European governments had all grown by piecemeal. 
The fragments of which they consisted were put together as 
force or accident determined. Not representing the public 
will, the people were at a loss to discover the title which their 
rulers arrogated to themselves. There was no way of solv- 
ing the difficulty but by having recourse to an authority from 
above. Hence the doctrine of "jure divino" right of kings 
to rule. The minds of men were then filled with all sorts of 
superstition, and the prince, whose priviliges flow from so 
exalted a source, seems alone entitled to place a construction 
upon them. Elizabeth told the English Commons that they 
must not dare to meddle with state affairs; and Charles XIL, 
of Sweden, told the senate that he would send his boot to 
govern them. Constitutional government has effected the 
same revolution in politics, which the progress of physical 
science has produced in religion. Both have banished super- 
stition ; the one from the domain of government, the other 
that of religion. The human mind can no more get back to 



CHAP. I.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



207 



the notion of the divine right of kings, than it can get back 
to fetichisin and idolatry. 

A popular constitution is necessarily a restraint upon the ma- 
jority, so that that form of government which it has been sup- 
posed would be most exposed to the inroads of licentiousness, 
is the one which is most strongly secured against them. For 
as a written constitution is obliged to contain an exact dis- 
tribution of the powers of the various departments, the per- 
sons who fill those places cannot separate themselves from 
the rule which created them, and say, because they are tem- 
porarily and for certain purposes the majority, that therefore 
they are the majority for all purposes and for all time to 
come. Do as we will, the moment we establish a popular con-, 
stitution, we are compelled to afford a substantial security to 
the minority against the majority. It could not be a popular 
constitution, unless it contained provisions for securing the 
rights of all classes, without reference to the fact whether 
either shall afterward fall into the party of the majority, or 
into that of the minority. And although it is plain that it 
is physically possible to overleap the bounds set up by the 
constitution, yet so firm is the hold which this solemn cov- 
enant has upon the minds of every one, that the most ambi- 
tious and unprincipled men recoil from the attempt. When 
this has become the settled habit of thinking among the peo- 
ple, their feelings and imagination come in aid of their con- 
victions of right. The constitution becomes a memorable 
record ; and the fancy clothes it with additional solemnity. 
If the altar and the throne became objects of veneration in 
monarchical government, the altar and the constitution be- 
come objects of equal veneration in a republic. In those rare 
instances, when attempts have be.m made by the state leg- 
islatures in America to violate their constitutions, there has 
been a redeeming virtue among the people, which has either 
compelled the majority to retrace their steps, or, by convert- 
ing the minority into the majority, has brought the constitu- 
tion baek to its pristine spirit. 

If there were no such instrument, parties would do very 
much what the exigencies of the moment dictated. For how . 
would it be possible to argue upon the constitutionality of 
any measure, when there was no constitution in existence. The 



208 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



alarm may be given of a contemplated violation of some 
fundamental right; but how can the people be made to under- 
stand this'? A written constitution affords the only plain 
test. Some of its provisions may be the subject of dispute, 
but in the great majority of instances, it will be a clear and 
most important guide in judging the actions of all the public 
functionaries. 

The express, and the implied powers in a written consti- 
tution, are sometimes identical. This is a distinction which 
deserves great consideration, for from it very important con- 
sequences follow. The express powers are identical with 
the implied, whenever the former would be unmeaning and 
inoperative, unless laws were subsequently passed to carry 
them into effect. Without the aid of these laws, which are 
referred to the head of implied powers, the express powers 
would be a nullity. This is evident from the 8th section of 
the 1st article of the constitution of the United States. All 
the powers therein delegated to the legislature are express 
powers, and yet not one can be exercised without passing 
laws. It is different with regard to the powers which are 
conferred upon the executive. These, for the mo t part, may 
be executed without the intervention of any laws. This is 
evident from the 2d and 3d sections of the 2d article. Some, 
perhaps all, the powers there enumerated, may be modified 
by the legislature. For instance, the power of removal from 
office may be forbidden under certain conditions; but they 
are all substantially exercisable, without any acts of legisla- 
tion. This is the case, also, with the powers conferred upon 
the judiciary. Some of these powers also may be modified 
by the legislature, while the most important part of them ex- 
ecute themselves, and render it unnecessary to resort to any 
implied powers. This important difference between the leg- 
islative, and the other two departments, contributes greatly to 
enlarge the powers of the former, as the field within which 
the implied powers may be exercised is never precisely deter- 
mined. On the other hand, there is this compensation for 
reducing to the character of implied powers ail those which 
are wielded by the legislature, that tho c e which are possessed 
by the executive and judiciary, being complete without the 
intervention of any laws, these two departments are protected 



CHAP. I.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



209 



against tbe assaults of the legislature. If, then, it were pos- 
sible to reduce to the character of express powers, all those 
which are conferred upon the legislative, in analogy with 
those conferred upon the executive and judiciary, a very im- 
portant step would be made towards improving the whole 
structure of government. That this may be effected to a 
great extent, cannot be doubted. A very important move- 
ment has been lately made in this direction by some of the 
American States. It has no objection that it will render con- 
stitutions a little more voluminous. A constitution is faulty, 
when, by going into detail, its provisions are ambiguous. But 
when the opposite effect, that of greater clearness and pre- 
cision, is attained, the objection loses its force. If in the fed- 
eral government, the powers which appertain to the legisla- 
ture are all of the character of implied powers, this is true, 
in a still higher sense, in the constitutions of the States. The 
former does contain an enumeration of the powers which are 
proper to be exercised by the legislature, although none can 
be exercised without the aid of the implied powers. But the 
State constitutions generally, do not even contain this enu- 
meration. They simply create the legislative power, and then 
leave it free to act as the public exigencies and its own dis- 
cretion may dictate. The reason of the distinction is obvious. 

The federal constitution is one of strictly limited powers 
limited not merely in respect to the constitution making 
power, but as regards the state governments. It was nec- 
essary, therefore, to make a specification in gross of its powers, 
iu order to separate them from those of the states. But these 
are powerful reasons, as I shall presently show, why a state 
constitution should be as well guarded in this particular, as 
the constitution of the Union. 

One use or the veto of the executive is to protect him against 
the usurpations of the legislature, but another and still higher 
use is to protect the community against those usurpations. 
One reasou why the executive, although a single individual, 
may succeed in the exercise of this power, is that he is armed 
with an extensive patronage. This clothes him with great au- 
thoiiiy, and enables him, when he acts with fidelity, to rally 
the sound part of the commuuity. One reason why the veto 
is generally dropped in the state constitutions, is that it is im- 
14 



210 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



possible, even if it were consistent with the genius of free in- 
stitutions, to create an executive with very extensive patron- 
age: another is, that the states are not so extensive as to fos- 
ter powerful local interest. Thus, the necessity of the veto is 
accompanied with a corresponding necessity of strengthening 
the magistrate who exercises it; and on the other hand, in 
proportion to its inutility, is the difficulty of rendering it au- 
thoritative. 

It may be supposed that in an extensive country like the 
United States, executive patronage would be so great as to 
enable the chief magistrate to exercise the veto improperly. 
Doubtless, this will sometimes be the case. In every human 
institution we always make allowance for occasional aberra- 
tions, as we do in the most perfect machinery. But there is 
an antidote to the evil. Where universal suffrage is estab- 
lished, the amount of patronage, though great as regards the 
executive, is very small when compared with the number of 
the electors. 

In a limited monarchy, the absolute veto is conferred upon 
the king, in order to protect him against the usurpations of 
the legislature, which represents the sovereignty; in other 
words, he ia himself made a branch of the legislative power; 
for to give him the absolute veto, is to confer upon him legis- 
lative power. In a republic, the written constitution guards 
him against those encroachments, for his powers are clearly 
defined. But if the powers of the legislature are all of the 
nature of implied powers, which cannot be defined, it may 
be necessary to invest him with the qualified veto, the dan 
ger of usurpation not being so great as where there is no 
enumeration of either the express or implied powers. This 
'would seem to afford an argument for giving the veto to 
the governor ot a state; for as I have observed, the list of 
implied powers in a state government is vastly more extensive 
than in the federal, and the danger of encroachments on the 
community is as great, although there may be little danger of 
invading the prerogatives of the governor. Th^re are, how- 
ever, two ways of protecting society against the usurpations 
of the legislature. One in the manner I have just indicated, 
the other by circumscribing the aut'^ority of the legislature, 
that is, by inserting limitations in the state constitutions, on 



chap. I.] OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 211 

the exercise of every power which is iutended to be withheld 
from the legislature, and express grants of every one which is 
intended to be exercised. There is a marked tendency in this 
direction in the state constitutions which have lately been 
framed. The prohibition of contracting a public debt, unless 
authorized by vote of the people, first inserted ia the con- 
stitutions of Rhode Island and Iowa, and since in those of 
New York and Ohio ; the provision that special charters shall 
not be granted ; that the legislature shall not authorize the 
suspension of specie payments ; that the stockholders in a 
corporation shall be individually responsible, contained in the 
8th article of the constitution of New York, and the whole of 
the 14th section of the 7th article of the same constitution, are 
remarkable examples. Of the same character are the 4th, 5th, 
15th and 16th sections of the 3d article, and the 4th and 11th 
sections of the 6th article, and most of the provisions in the 
A bill of rights, or 51st article. Indeed, it is remarkable that 
until recently the restrictions upon the legislative power, for 
the most part, have been carefully placed in the bill of rights. 
The great importance of controlling the department by ex- 
press limitations, did not command public attention. Not- 
withstanding, however, that the constitution of New York has 
so far exceeded any other in the precision and comprehensive- 
ness of its restrictions upon the legislature, the veto of the gov- 
ernor is retained. It will probably be retained until experiment 
has ascertained all the cases in which exact limitations may 
be imposed. When these are exhausted — when all the implied 
powers are converted into express powers, it may be dropped. 

It would seem then, that the veto is only conferred upon the 
executive, in consequence of the imperfect character of the 
limitations imposed upon the legislature. If society can be 
protected against the predominance of local interests, against 
the improper exercise of implied powers by express limita- 
tions, these will be much more efficacious than the veto. 
Even in the federal government, what an amount of mischief 
may have been averted, if precise provisions in relation to a 
bank, to the tariff, to internal improvements, <&c, had been 
inserted. Nothing but experience could disclose where the 
weak points of the system lay. But the difficulty of availing 
ourselves of this experience in the federal government, is in- 



212 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



finitely greater than in those of the states. It is exceedingly 
difficult to obtain amendments in the former. The veto will 
therefore be retained there, after it ceases to be employed in . 
the latter. 

An immense advantage will arise from this scheme of strict 
limitations, independently of its dispensing with the veto. It 
will, to a great extent, close the door upon party dissensions. 
If any one reflects upon the various questions which have agi- 
tated the people of the states, and kindled so fierce a spirit of 
party, he will find that tney are nearly all attributable to the 
defect of the state or of the federal constitution, in defining 
the attributes of the legislature. If a state constitution merely 
cieates this department, and is almost entirely silent as to its 
powers, the door is immediately opened to the most unbounded 
discussion, as to the propriety of various acts of legislation. 
If the federal constitution does contain an enumeration of its 
powers, and this is wanting in the requisite precision, an end- 
less controversy is kept up, not merely as to the expediency, 
but as to the constitutionality of various laws. A few words 
in the one case, a few lines in the other, would have prevented 
the mischief. 

It would appear then/that so far from its being true, that 
constitutions are sacred, and should never be touched; that 
they partake of the character of all human institutions, and 
should be open to amendment. It is not in the power of the 
finest genius to draw up a constitution which shall be perfect 
at the time ; much less, which shall be so in all time to come. 
Time and experience are indispensable to develop the true 
character of the powers which are marked out, and to reveal 
the secret flaws which have prevented the exact working of 
the svstem. England was convulsed with civil wars, or ruled 
with a rod of iron, until the revolution of 1788, when some 
precise limitations were imposed upon the power of govern- 
ment. And yet these limitations do not contain as much as 
is coutained in the bill of rights of some of the American 
states. So far is it from being true, that written constitutions 
are of no avail, that the British constitution derives all its 
efficacy, all its healthful activity, from those written provisions 
which were made about the time of the revolution. It may be 
said, that that nation is not yet prepared for an entirely writ- 



CHAP. I. ] 



FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



213 



ten constitution. But given the fact, that a nation is thus 
prepared, and then, the more exact and the more comprehen- 
sive are its provisions in relation to the legislative power, the 
more securely will the bulwarks of liberty be guarded. 

A constitution is open to alteration by the same power 
which enacted it. The sovereign authority residing in the 
people is necessarily inalienable. It cannot be extinguished, 
because there is no human power superior to itself to have 
that effect. To assert that a constitution is of so sacred a 
character, that it can never again be touched, would be to re- 
turn to the European notions of government. A constitution, 
however, may provide in what way alterations shall be made; 
so as to get rid on the one hand of the difficulty which would 
arise from one generation attempting to bind all others ; and 
at the same time, to secure that the future generation which 
does make alterations shall be the people themselves, and not 
their rulers. 

All the American constitutions contain provisions of this 
kind. But as it rarely happens that a constitution will require 
to be entirely remodeled, a way is provided by which particu- 
lar amendments maj be made, without the necessity of assem- 
bling a convention. In some states the proposed change must 
be deliberated upou, and agreed to by two-thirds of two suc- 
cessive legislatures, in others it is after a vote of two-thirds of 
two successive legislatures, submitted to the people at their 
annual elections. In Pennsylvania a majority of two suc- 
cessive legislatures is sufficient for this purpose. All these 
plans are substantially alike. By the first, it is the legislature 
which makes the alteration. But the members have been 
chosen by the people, with a direct view to the question of 
change or no change. In Ohio, Yermont, and New Hamp- 
shire, alterations can only be made by a convention, which in 
the former must be authorized by a vote of two-thirds of the 
legislature, in the second by a vote of two-thirds of a council 
of censors. But this vote cannot be taken oftener than once 
in seven years. And in New Hampshire the votes of the peo- 
ple are taken every seven years, by the selectmen, and asses- 
sors, as to the expediency of calling a convention. 

The design of all these plans is to secure that alterations 
shall be made in so solemn and deliberate a maimer, that 



214 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



there shall be no question but what they have emanated from 
the people. 

In France it is a settled maxim that " the charte" can never 
be altered : that there is no power whatever competent to 
touch it. This seems to savor strongly of the school of Sir 
Eobert Filmer. But in reality, it is a disguised departure 
from the doctrines of that school. " The charte " has shaken 
the power of the king and nobibility. The danger of altera- 
tion, therefore, arises from that quarter. The notion of its 
inviolability is a check upon them ; but it is not a check when 
popular sentiment calls loudly for some additional safeguard 
to liberty. Thus, the charte was remodeled in 1830, when 
provisions of vital importance to Frenchmen were inserted. 

In Great Britain the maxim is that parliament is the sover- 
eign power. But I imagine that no parliament would dare to 
meddle with any of those fundamental enactments which se- 
cure English liberty. In 1689 it was deemed fit that " the 
convention," which seated William on the throne, and passed 
the celebrated " act of settlement," should be composed of 
the members who had sat in the two preceding parliaments. 

Government, like every other human interest, is the subject 
of experience, and therefore capable of improvement. We are 
bound, therefore, in devising a system of civil policy, to avail 
ourselves of the same helps and resources which give strength 
and security to every other institution. 

Society is not resolved into its original elements, by the call 
of a convention to alter the constitution. There is no instant 
of time, in the transition from the old to the new state of 
things, when there is not a subsisting government. Until a 
new constitution is ordained, the citizens are bound by the 
old. But a strange imagination exists among some persons, 
that whatever the people have power to do, they have also the 
right to do. It is not that such persons are at all friendly to 
the exercise of licentious power ; but they can see no way of 
separating right and power, where there is no positive or 
organized authority, to limit and control the last. First, 
then, a distinction must be made between the power of vot- 
ing and the power of executing. A convention might declare 
all existing marriages null, bastardize the children, confiscate 
the property of every one at death, authorize theft and mur- 



CHAP. I.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



215 



der, etc. ; but it is plain, that it would not have power to carry 
these ordinances into effect. This distinction between the 
power of declaring and the power of executing, has been 
repeatedly illustrated in the history of all the European gov- 
ernments, even those which have possessed the most solidly 
established authority. The English parliament, armed with 
all the powers of a convention, was not able, in the reign of 
Mary, to exterminate the Protestants : it was not able in the 
succeeding reign, to abolish either the Catholic or Puritan 
religion. The French monarchs, prior and subsequent to the 
time of Henry the Great, although they employed every in- 
strument, both physical and moral, were unable to extermi- 
nate the Huguenots. That sect survived every effort to sub- 
due them, and are now a powerful and influential body in the 
kingdom. No monarch ever possessed more absolute author- 
ity than Charles V., and Philip II. of Spain ; yet they were 
unable to execute their edicts among the people of the low 
countries. This people annulled their edicts, and became sov- 
ereign themselves. 

Second. A constitutional convention has not the right to 
do everything which it has the power to do. Individuals 
every day have the opportunity to kill others, but they have 
not the right to do so. That an individual may be punished, 
and that a nation, or the majority, is dispunishable, makes no 
difference ; for it will be conceded, that if there were no means 
of punishing an individual, as there frequently are not, his 
guilt would be precisely the same, and his right without the 
shadow of foundation. There is no possible way, therefore, 
by which we can make right and power convertible terms. It 
is in vain to say, that these are extreme cases, and therefore 
prove nothing ; for they do, indeed, prove everything which 
is proper to be proved. They destroy the notion of univer- 
sality, as a part of the rule ; and they, therefore, destroy the 
rule itself. They may also prove, that the same principles 
which falsify the rule in some particulars, operate throughout 
the whole system of legislation, and may be calculated upon 
with precision. But it may be said, that there are many ques- 
tions, about which there is no such general opinion of right 
and justice, as to render the enactments of a convention at all 
uniform ; that this opens the door to a certain latitude of 



216 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



judgment, and tbat within this debatable field, it is free to de- 
clare what is right, and has power to enforce its decrees. 
This is admitted : there must be many questions, about which 
a difference of opinion will prevail, among persons of equal 
integrity and capacity. It is, however, a great boon gained 
to society, when all those questions, which are not debatable 
in foro conscientice, are withdrawn from the field of contro- 
versy. This happens more certainly in a society democratic- 
ally constituted than in any other. It is a fine observation of 
Mr. Hume, that events which depend upon the will of a great 
number, may be calculated upon with much more certainty 
than those which depend upon the will of a single individual, 
or of a small number of persons. Events which are depend- 
ent upon a great number, are governed by general laws, laws 
which are common to the species : those which depend upon 
one, or a small number, are subjected to the caprice, or mo- 
mentary disposition of the individual. The reason, then, why 
the advantage I have indicated appertains to a society demo- 
cratically constituted, is that the will of a great number, and 
upon that great number public events then depend, is con- 
sulted. lS r o one has ever heard of a provision in any American 
constitution or law, which did violence to any of the funda- 
mental rules of morality. Individuals may be guilty of a vio- 
lation of them constantly; and, therefore, while we place no 
confidence in any calculation we may make as to what they 
will do, we may rely with great certainty upon a calulation, 
as to the conduct of a very large body of men. But when I 
speak of a society which is democratically constituted, I do 
not intend merely a society which has democratic institu- 
tions; it may have them to-day, and lose them to morrow. I 
intend a society in which not only the political, but the social 
organization is so advanced, as to render free institutions the 
natural expression of the national will. In such a community, 
the greater the number whose opinions are taken, the greater 
the probability that those opinions will be reduced to unity ; 
in other words, that the incoherent views which are enter- 
tained by some, will be swallowed up in the opinions of a 
great number. For to say that they are incoherent, is to say 
that they do not reflect the opinions which are common to the 
whole. 



CHAP. II. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



217 



CHAPTER II. 

THAT IN A REPUBLIC, THE GOVERNORS AND THE GOVERNED 
ARE IDENTICAL, AND DIFFERENT. 

Some persons find exceeding difficulty in comprehending 
how the people who govern should be one and the same with 
the people who are governed. The simplest and the most gen- 
eral notion which we ever form of government, is that it is an 
institution established to preside over society, to maintain the 
supremacy of the laws, and to resist all efforts from -without, 
to shake and undermine its influence. To accomplish this, it 
would seem to be necessary that government should possess 
an independent authority ; that it should be armed with a 
power which could not be wrested from it, at the very time it 
was most important to employ it. Self-government, or a dem- 
ocratic republic, which presupposes that the governors and 
the governed are one and the samej appears then to be a sole- 
cism in politics. It seems to contain an inherent principle of 
decay, and on that account to be the least eligible form of 
government which can be adopted. The notions which we 
frame to ourselves on all subjects, but especially on politics, 
are so much determined by the forms of thought which have 
previously existed, that it is always a work of difficulty to 
break up old associations, and to persuade the mind, that any 
remarkable change in the institutions of society can be easily 
accomplished, much less, that it would be both safe and ad- 
vantageous. 

The actual operation of popular government relieves us 
from the difficulty which has been suggested. For there, 
parties in the majority and minority immediately rise up. 
And as the former is entitled by right and by necessity to the 
supremacy, an example is afforded at the outset, of a presid- 
ing power in the state which is distinct from that of the 
whole of society. Thus, if a small number of persons, when 
compared with the entire population, are disposed to be vi- 



218 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



cious, and to violate the private rights of any individual, inas- 
much as the administration of the laws is deposited with a 
much larger number, a check upon the conduct of the former 
is created, which operates with certainty, in ninety-nine cases 
in a hundred. And if we suppose, that a still greater propor- 
tion—a proportion which constituted nearly or even quite a 
majority — were so inclined ; still, if the distribution of prop- 
erty is such, that the major part of the citizens have some 
allotment, some stake in the hedge : their interests will out- 
weigh the propensity to commit mischief ; and the sense of 
interest, combining with the operation of the laws, after civil 
government is fairly established, redoubles its authority, and 
in the course of no very long time, beguiles the understand- 
ings of all men — the educated, and the illiterate, the honest, 
and the depraved — into the belief that there is indeed an in- 
herent power residing in the government, which can in no way 
be confounded with the local and discordant opinions which 
prevail without. 

Nor, even if the unanimous consent of the people were ad- 
mitted to be necessary to the first institution of government, 
would there be any great difficulty in obtaining it. Even the 
most abandoned men shrink from a public exposure of their 
hearts. Nor are crimes ever committed from habitual dispo- 
sition, but- from sudden impuke, or powerful temptation, which 
cannot well exist at the time when a popular convention is 
deliberating upon the form of government which shall be 
established. Nor, if it were otherwise, would it alter the case, 
since the worst men are as deeply interested in the mainten- 
ance of the general body of laws, as are the best. They 
would not be able to commit any crime, unless their own lives 
were protected up to a certain point. Their persons would 
not be safe, as soon as they discovered a disposition to com- 
mit violence upon others. This is the reason why what is 
vulgarly termed " lynch law," is so abhorrent to offenders, as 
well as to all lovers of law and order. Once established as a 
rule, and the mere suspicion that a crime was committed, or 
about to be committed, would lead to summary punishment; 
while the penalty inflicted, might be out of all proportion to 
the character of the offense. " Give me a fair trial," said a 



CIIA.P. II. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



219 



miserable creature, whom I once knew summarily dealt with. 
"If I have broken the laws, I am entitled to justice." 

Instances have come under my observation, where indi- 
vidual's who freely voted for the establishment of a constitu- 
tion, afterward rendered themselves amenable to the laws, 
which were passed in conformity with that constitution. And 
I recollect two instances of individuals, members of a legisla- 
tive body, who assisted in the enactment of laws, which pun- 
ished forgery and perjury with great severity, and each of 
whom was afterward the victim of one of those laws. Few 
men assist in passing sentence upon themselves. But all men 
are, some how or other, irresistibly impelled to create the 
tribunal which is destined to punish them, if they are guilty. 

So far, we have considered government chiefly in its sim- 
plest form: the government of the people in person. But it 
is not practicable to conduct the affairs of a large state in this 
way. Almost all the ancient commonwealths were of small 
size. The Grecian states were none of them larger than an 
American county. Attica, the most famous, was of no greater 
extent than Ross county, in Ohio. Indeed, city and state 
were synonymous terms with the Grecian lawyers. By the 
government of a state, they intended the government of a 
city. Even in the Roman commonwealth, the governing 
power was for a long time, in theory, and almost always in 
practice, confined to the walls of the city. 

But when the elective principle is introduced, the machinery 
of the government becomes more complicated. Those admin- 
istrative officers, who were before appointed by the people, are 
invested with additional authority. And the legislative body 
becomes at once the most important and the most imposing 
of all the institutions of government. 

There is no good reason why a popular constitution should 
not be established in a simple democracy, as well as in a rep- 
resentative government. In both, the minority require to be 
protected against the majority. But the idea of a written 
constitution does not readily suggest itself, unless the state is 
sufficiently large to occasion the introduction of the elective 
principle into general practice. The fundamental ordinances 
of the ancient law-givers were of a totally different character, 
not merely in their origin, but in their purport, from the 



220 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



American constitution. They were like the ordinary acts of 
legislation, which are intended to restrain the people; where- 
as, one great design of a constitution is to restrain the gov- 
ernment. 

The adoption of such an instrument, then, may appear to 
be a source of weakness, but in reality it is a source of great 
strength to the government. The individual whose conduct 
is marked by most propriety, no matter whether from internal 
or external motives, acquires most power in the circle within 
which he moves. And a representative government, which 
moves within the ample but well defined jurisdiction marked 
out tor it, acquires unspeakable influence from that circum- 
stance. And although the original intention, in framing a 
written constitution, was to supply the grand defect which 
existed in all preceding governments, to wit, the absence of a 
control upon the governors, yet it operates with equal efficacy 
in restraining the rest of society. The existence of such an 
instrument, then, is another addition to the apparatus of the 
government, giving it an air of greater solemnity, investing 
its proceedings with a more regular and decisive authority, 
and thus contributing practically to separate, in the minds of 
every one, two ideas which are at bottom the same, to wit, the 
idea of the people as governors, and of the people who are 
governed. 

Various reasons have been assigned for the division of the 
legislature into two branches. The plan appears to have been 
unknown among the republics of antiquity. Where two 
chambers did exist, one possessed powers of a different char- 
acter from those of the other, and therefore the co-operation 
of the two was not necessary ; or else, one acted as a delib- 
erative body merely, with at the utmost the power of initiating 
measures, while the others possessed the legislative power 
proper. Feudal institutions, which gave rise to a baronial 
nobility, seated by the side of growing and powerful cities, 
introduced the scheme as it exists in modern states. The 
population of the towns was of too much importance to be 
overlooked, while at the same time, the barons were too 
haughty and jealous to permit the representatives of those 
towns to have seats among themselves. The legislative body 
therefore became separated into two bodies, occupying at first 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



221 



the same ball, but afterward sitting in two, when the practice 
of public debate took the place of the private conferences, and 
rendered it impossible to conduct the proceedings at different 
ends of even a large apartment. And, although the reason 
for this arrangement has ceased to exist, the institution is still 
preserved. Perhaps we may be able to assign to it an office 
distinct from that which has been ascribed to it, and say that, 
although it has the appearance of being more out of place in 
a democratic republic, where the subordination of ranks does 
not exist, than in any other form of government; yet, inas- 
much as two chambers render the machinery of legislation 
more complex than one alone, and communicate to the gov- 
ernment a more imposing character than it would otherwise 
wear, this division of the legislative body may assist, although 
indirectly, in upholding the public authority, and in maintain- 
ing order and tranquility throughout the state. It is no ob- 
jection to an institution that it exercises an influence over the 
imaginations of men, provided this influence does not inter- 
fere with the useful and legitimate purposes which were de- 
signed to be answered, but on the contrary, contributes to 
carry them out more fully i > 

A regular system of jurisprudence would appear to be as 
essential to a people living under the simplest form of popular 
government, as for any other commuuity. The eternal prin- 
ciples of justice are not of man's creation; and they have on 
that account an authority which no man is at liberty to deny 
or disparage. A code of jurisprudence is nothing more than 
an exposition of those principles, so far as they apply to the 
affairs of society. But the exi tence of such an instrument 
is hardly known until after the state has passed from the sim- 
plest form of democratic rule, and has assumed the character 
of a representative government. The people, when sitting in 
judgment personally, cannot with any convenience make ap- 
plication of those principles of law requiring, as they do, the 
most concentrated attention, aud the exercise of an undis- 
turbed judgment. Indeed, such principles have the appear- 
ance of being out of place, where the form of government 
presupposes that there is no superior authority behind the 
judicial magistrates. We hear of the Roman or civil law. 
But no one has ever heard of Grecian law. The organization 



222 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



of the Grecian tribunal was exceedingly unfavorable to the 
growth of a regular sjstem of civil jurisprudence. The prin- 
cipal court was composed of six or eight thousand people; 
and the decisions of such a tribunal must necessarily be vague 
and conjectural. Nor did Roman law make any progress 
until the judicial power passed from the popular assemblies 
of the comitia, and became exclusively vested in the repre- 
sentative magistrates termed praetors. It is not until the 
reign of Adrian, in the commencement of the second century, 
that jurisprudence began to wear the character of a regular 
system, such as it is known at the present day. The division 
of labor was then consummated. The judicial power was 
lodged with certain magistrates, set apart for that purpose, 
who were obliged to act upon some fixed, general rules. And 
the collection of those rules into a body constitutes in great 
part the foundation of the civil law. In the time of the em- 
perors the praetors were not an elective magistracy : but the 
special character of the duties they were assigned to perform, 
after a beginning had been made, was far more Jfavorable to 
the growth of a regular system than the tumultuous meetings 
of the comitia. In addition to which an absolute government 
in a higoly civilized country, is very willing to purchase an 
unlimited political authority, by establishing exact lules of 
justice in what concerns the civil relations of men. If it 
were not for some principle of virtual representation at least, 
neither law nor civilization would ever make any progress. 

But what the appointing power effects is accomplished still 
more fully by the elective power. In no country in the world 
has jurisprudence acquired a more regular and systematic 
character, than in the United States: The perfection which it 
has attained constitutes its only objection. All the leading 
principles on which it reposes have been so thoroughly rami- 
fied, and rendered so flexible with the professional man, in 
their application to new cases, that the science no longer pre- 
sents the same attraction as formerly to minds of a highly in- 
tellectual cast. We may say of the law what has been said of 
mathematics, that it Las become an exhausted science. But 
this regular growth of a body of laws, with appropriate tri- 
bunals and magistrates to administer it, the natural result of 
the introduction of representative government, has a wonder- 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



223 



ful effect in giving to the institutions an appearance of com- 
plexity, and in surrounding them with an air of authority, 
which only contributes to carry out the design for which they 
were originally created. These institutions are the workman- 
ship of the people. And yet between the people and the gov- 
ernment is interposed a vast and complicated machinery, dffi- 
cult to break through, and which inculcates and enforces 
among the whole population, the notions of right, of obliga- 
tion, cf justice, more effectually than the decrees of the most 
absolute government could do. 

The extent of country over which the government presides, 
assists in keeping up the delusion, in persuading people, that 
there is an authority residing in the government totally inde- 
pendent of the popular will : if that can be called a delusion, 
which has its origin in the most settled principles of human 
nature, and which only contributes to highten the reverence 
for the laws, and to maintain order and tranquillity through- 
out the laud. 

Even where the territory is only of tolerable extent, gov- 
ernment is called upon to act, through the medium of a host 
of functionaries, in a great number of particular instances. 
And, this actiug in detail repeatedly, and on such an infinity 
of occasions, without any perceptible interference from with- 
out, separates the notion of governmental authority from that 
of the popular will, augments the authority of the former, and 
enables it to exercise an easy empire over the minds of men. 
And yet it possesses this influence, only in consequence of 
being founded upon the popular will, and on the condition of 
making itself eminently useful to society. 

When men are called upon to act openly in face of the 
woiid, their actions are naturally more guarded aud circum- 
spect, than where they are free from so wholesome a control. 
This is the case even though the sense of right should be sup- 
posed to be no stronger than on other occasions. For when 
they come to deliberate in public, each one finds that the in- 
terests oi others have an intimate relation with his own ; and 
that, do as he will, their opinions will entitle themselves to 
equal consideration with his. This is the case in the simplest 
form of democratic government, where ail the citizens meet 
together to consult upon public affairs. But the effect is in- 



224 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book el 



creased where the elective form of government is established. 
In the first instance, the whole population constitute the pub- 
lic. The actors and the spectators, the delinquents and the 
judges, are indiscriminately mixed. The restraint therefore is 
not complete. Hence the tumultuous assemblies in the Gre- 
cian republics. In the second case, the legislature, executive, 
and judges, together with the whole body of administrative 
officers, constitute at any one time only a fraction of the popu- 
lation. The government and the public are separated from 
each other, in order that the last may bear with greater weight, 
and a more defined authority, upon the first. The keenness 
of the observers is hightened, and the conduct of the actors is 
more circumspect. Those who are invested with public trusts 
of any kind, find that they are no longer able to bury their 
motives and disguise their actions amid a vast and hetrogene- 
ous assembly. The circumstances in which they are placed 
rouse a feeling of responsibility to other men ; and this in 
its turn, awakens reflection, and a sense of justice. But, the 
circumstances in which men are placed, constitute a very large 
part of their education through life. And this sense of justice, 
and this habit of reflection, although originally induced by 
external causes, may in progress of time become very impor- 
tant springs of action. If all those public functionaries were 
accustomed to act as simple members of an immense assem- 
bly, called together on the spur of the occasion, they would be 
carried away by every temporary delusion ; and their actions 
would seem in their own eyes worthy of condemnation, only 
when it was too late to correct them. 

This is the reason why what we term public opinion ac- 
quires so much force, and wears so imposing an authority, in 
representative government. That portion of the population 
which gives being to it, is far more numerous, the public much 
more extensive, than in any other form of government ; while 
at the same time, the public officers of every grade stand 
apart and distinct from that public, and are therefore sub- 
jected to a constant and active supervision from without ; and, 
if the separation of the two has the effect of hightening the 
sense of responsibilty, and increasing the capacity for reflec- 
tion in the former, it has the same influence upon the people. 
These are also placed in new circumstances, which are emi- 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FEEE INSTITUTIONS. 



225 



nently calculated to promote thought and inquiry. And al- . 
though the persons who fill the three great departments of the 
government, and all the administrative officers, are but the 
agents of the people ; yet this people now view the conduct of 
the former from a point different from that at which they view 
their own. They expect and demand better thiugs than they 
would from themselves. And the constant working of this 
principle, in spite of all the tendencies to licentiousness of 
opinion, ultimately communicates, to both the public and the 
government, more calmness and moderation, and a disposition 
to view things not merely as they are, but as they should be. 
It frequently happens, that on the proposal of an important 
public measure, popular feeling seems to run in one direction, 
while the representatives of the people are disposed to take a 
different course. The discussion which takes place in the 
legislative body gives rise to discussion out of doors. The 
people and their representatives have time to compare notes ; 
and instead of a high state of feeling and exasperation, a 
greater degree of reflection is produced. So that when the 
final vdte has been taken in the legislative body, it has re- 
ceived the most cordial approbation from the men of all par- 
ties. The settlement of the Oregon controvesy is an instance 
of this. It is a memorable proof, that the question of peace 
and war is coming to be viewed in a manner totally different 
from what it was formerly : and that the American people and 
government are deeply impressed with the notion, that to pre- 
serve peace is to maintain civilization. The institutions of 
government in a republic have some office to perform, besides 
that of giving occasion to the exercise of political power. 
They beget habits of reflection, and disseminate a spirit of in- 
quiry throughout the land. Nor are those protracted debates 
which take place in the legislature, and which are so much 
the subject of criticism abroad, without their use. They allow 
time for public opinion to ripen, and bring the people and 
their representatives into harmony with each other. Half a cen- 
tury ago, the treaty negotiated by Mr. Jay, although it was ex- 
ceedingly advantageous to the United States, created a degree 
of agitation which shook the confederacy to its very center. 
The institutions were then young; the people had not grown 
into the new circumstances in which they were placed. Time, 
15 



22G 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[iJOOK II. 



and the consequent increase of population, which it was pre- 
dicted would develop in ten-fold strength, the mischiefs then 
experienced, has had a contrary effect. A dispute which, in 
1795, may have kindled a bloody and unprofitable war, was in 
184G, easily adjusted upon the same principles on which saga- 
cious men of business act, in settling their private controver- 
sies. 

In a democratic republic of considerable extent, the elec- 
tors are so numerous that each feels himself like a drop in the 
ocean. So that the more the number of active citizens is in- 
creased, the greater is the power of the state, and vet in the 
same proportion is the importance of each individual dimin- 
ished. The governors and the governed are in reality one and 
the same; but so exceedingly small is the share of influence 
which falls to each person, that everything seems to go on 
without any co-operation on his part. The movements of the 
political machine seem to be directed by an unseen band, and 
to be conducted with as much regularity and precision as in 
the most consolidated governments. The difference between 
the two cases is, that in the former ic is a mere illusiou, while 
in the last it is all reality. But the illusion which is practised 
upon the imagination, instead of detracting from the weight 
which the governed possess in the character of governors, 
adds greatlv to it. Each one of the ci izeus is of importance; 
and yet if it were possible for him to realize this — to believe 
that he was of so much consequence, that his participation in 
the government was necessary to the general weal — public 
affairs would meet with constant hindrances, instead of pro- 
ceeding with order and regularity. It is because each one 
does act, and yet so acts that his voice appears to be drowned 
in that of the public, that so much alertness and energy are 
combined with so much prudence and circr inspection in the 
management of public affairs, and that one of the most diffi- 
cult problems in government — that of conciliating the rights 
of each with the interests of all — approaches as near solution 
as, humanly speaking, is possible. It is in those countries 
where the electors are few, that the government feels most 
apprehensive, and is in danger of the most frequent revolu- 
tions. So that so far is the notion, that the governors and 
the governed may be one and the same, from being a paradox 



CHAP. II ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



227 



in politics, the more completely we succeed in practice in car- 
rying it out, the more secure is the government, and the more 
prosperous and powerful are the people. 

The same sense of feebleness and insignificance which each 
citizen feels as an elector, is more or less experienced by him 
when he desires to be a candidate for office. Although the 
elective form of government has the effect of multiplying the 
public employments, yet these are after all so few, when com- 
pared with the great number of persons who are eligible to 
them, that not one in a thousand dares flatter himself that he 
will be the successful candidate, or if he is, that he will be 
able to retain his, place beyond the short period for which he 
is at first elected. This has one good effect. In spite of 
many untoward influences, acting iu an opposite direction, it 
lesseus the self-importance of individuals, and puts every one 
on his good behavior. 

Thus, in a republic, men demand that the utmost equality 
should prevail. Tbey establish free institutions, and thus 
open the way to all the offices and emoluments in the state. 
But they have no sooner done so, thau they tiud v themselves 
crowded and incommoded iu every effort to acquire the object 
of their ambition. If they lived under a monarchical or aris- 
tocratical government, they would have been obliged to con- 
tend with those who had the advantages of rank or fortune 
on their side. Those advantages are now annulled, but the 
number of those who are eligible to offices is multiplied more 
than a hundred fold, and the obstacles in the way of acquiiiug 
them, although of a very differeut kind, are yet fully as great 
as in any other form of government. But those institutions 
which have raised up so many barriers to the ambition of all 
popular candidates, and contracted their hopes and expecta- 
tions within the narrowest possible dimensions, are the work- 
manship of the people themselves. They have neither the 
right, therefore, nor any the least disposition to quarrel with 
its operation. This is one reason why iu the United States 
the profouudest tranquillity prevails after the elections. Up 
to the time when they are held all is excitement and agita- 
tion. But they are no sooner closed thau the whole popula- 
tion seeks repose. The same institutions which extend liberty 
to all, establish the empire of public opinion, which, repre- 



228 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



seating the sentiments and interests of all classes, presses 
with an irresistible weight upon the whole community, giving 
security to the government, and contentment to the people. 
All is brought about by the voies of a majority of the citi 
zens, and to this majority all parties are habituated, by a 
sense of interest as well as from the necessity of the case, to 
pay unlimited deference. 

Thus, although the electoral franchise is extended to the 
utmost, so that the government is literally wielded by the 
people, yet between the people and the organized authority 
of the state there is interposed a machinery which, as it is 
viewed by each individual, has an air of sanctity and im- 
portance which gives additional force to the public will. It 
is illusion. The institutions are the direct and legitimate 
offspring of the popular vote. Each citizen contributes to 
the formation of public, opinion ; but once it is formed it rep- 
resents a whole, and presses with an undivided weight upon 
each. So each individual of the majority contributes to make 
up the million and a half of votes which decide the election 
of the American President. But that majority is then viewed 
in the aggregate, and so acquires an easy empire over the 
imaginations of all. 

But this is not all. As it is only a small number of the 
people who can fill the public offices at any one time, as it is a 
still smaller number who can ever succeed to the highest, the 
government and the people seem to be still more separated 
from one another. All the public officers are mere agents of 
the people. "But they are as one to thousands. They are set 
apart for the performance of special duties, and are all clothed 
with a greater or less degree of authority. Although chosen 
for short periods, and constantly watched by the searching eye 
of public opinion, yet the separation is made, and this is suffi- 
cient to impress upon the laws an air of authority which com- 
mands respect from the whole population. Moreover there is 
no time when the public offices are vacant. The persons who 
conduct public affairs are continually shifting, and yet the 
government seems to be immortal. There is nothiug more 
worthy of admiration than those numberless contrivances 
which exist in a society by which a system of compensations 
is established, and the irregularities of one part are corrected 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



229 



by an unforseen influence in another. The process is notice- 
able in the individual man, and is equally observable in that 
collection of men which we denominate a community. 

I do not see why so great difficulty should be felt in con- 
ceiving that the people who govern and the people who are 
governed may be one and the same, when the principal design 
of civil government is to bring out and to represent those 
qualities which are common to all. The individual may crave 
many gratifications, and pursue a great number of ends which 
appertain to his private interests. These may not interfere 
with the public weal ; they may even contribute directly to 
promote it. But wherever there is a conflict, inasmuch as all 
have a right, if one has, to run athwart the public interest, 
while at the same time the attempt by all to exercise the right 
would annul it for each, it becomes a matter of necessity, and 
does not altogether depend upon reflection, that all learn to 
distinguish more or less carefully between those interests 
which are peculiar to each and those which are common to 
all. 

But although it is not left to reflection to make the distinc- 
tion in the first instance, yet, as reflection is powerfully awak- 
ened by enlarging the sphere of popular rights, it has a great 
deal to do with the matter afterward. In the great majority 
of mankind the formation of habits of reflection must neces- 
sarily depend upon the exercise which their minds receive 
from the daily occupations which engage them. The contri- 
vance of means toward the attainment of the ends they are 
in pursuit of, the balancing of advantages against disadvan- 
tages, and the anxieties of all kinds which are consequent 
upon this employment of their faculties, makes them reflective 
in spite of themselves. It has been observed that the Ameri- 
cans are the most serious people in the world. And the 
remark is undoubtedly just. They are not the gravest, but 
the most serious, people. For there is a very wide difference 
between gravity and seriousness. The former may be the 
result of vanity, or dullness, or a frigid temperament. The 
last always implies thoughtfulness. It is a fine remark of 
Schiller, that the serene and the placid are the attributes of 
works of art, but that the serious belongs to human life. 

But in a democratic republic, the field of human life is more 



230 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



thoroughly laid open than it is anywhere else. All the ordin- 
ary motives to reflection are increased, because the objects, 
about which reflection is employed, are multiplied. Individ- 
uals are thrown more upon their own resources. Each has 
more to do, more to quicken his exertion, more to kindle hope, 
and yet to sadden with disappointment. When we look over 
the vast agricultural population of the United States, and ob- 
serve that it is almost entirely composed of proprietors, the 
reason why there is so much activity and yet so much reflec- 
tion, so much stir and yet such perfect tranquillity, is ap- 
parent. Proprietors are charged with the entire management 
of a business which, in other countries, is divided between 
two or three classes. They are rendered thoughtful and cir- 
cumspect, because they have so much to engross their atten- 
tion and to tax their exertions. If the slaves of the south did 
not belong to a race decidedly inferior to that of the white 
man, it would be the highest wisdom to manumit them. The 
abolition of slavery would have the same effect as the aboli- 
tion of the laws of primogeniture. It would melt down large 
properties into farms of a reasonable size. The number of 
proprietors would be greatly increased, and so would the 
number of those who would be trained to habits of indepen- 
dent exertion. The agricultural population of the United 
States are the conservators of the peace, and the great bal- 
ance-wheel of the constitution. 

In a country where free institutions exist, not only is the 
sphere of individual exertion enlarged, the amount of busi- 
ness transacted by private individuals increased, but the in- 
terests which are common to all are also increased. If the 
effect were only to animate the cupidity of individuals, to 
sharpen the appetite for self gratification, and thus to nourish 
an universal egotism, it would run counter to all the ends for 
which civil government is established. But we cannot well 
enhance the importance of any one's private business, with- 
out placing him more in connection with others, compelling 
him to co-operate in their exertions, and causing them in their 
turn to be instrumental in his. If, in America, the rural pop- 
ulation is for the most part composed of proprietors, and in 
the towns, the trades are thrown open to all, and not confined 
to the colleges of artizans, there must be a constant tendency 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



231 



toward the creation of a system of common interests, since 
a great majority of the people have so deep a stake in the 
protection of property, and in the maintenance of those laws 
which guarantee personal liberty. Governmental regulation, 
of one kind or another, becomes more and more necessary. 
And this necessity is realized by a very great number of peo- 
ple. So that although men escape from the restraint which 
the artificial forms of government impose; they find them- 
selves, when living under free institutions, surrounded by all 
sorts of restraints. The great difference between the two 
cases is, that in the last, the restraint is imposed for the com- 
mon benefit of all, and with the free consent of all. 

But this does not prevent the operation of that illusion to 
which I have constantly referred. Government has a vast and 
complicated business to transact, ever increasing with the in- 
crease of the population, so that the management of public 
affairs, in the single state of New York, is far more intricate 
and weighty than it was iu the great empire of Charlemagne. 
The intervention of the governors stands out in bold relief, 
as something distinct from, and totally independent of, society. 
The people of that state created their government, and lend 
it a free and unanimous support. And yet, there is hardly 
one of them, perhaps, on hearing pronounced the words "peo- 
ple of the state of New York," in a simple indictment, but 
what feels as if an immense but undefinable authority was im- 
pending over him. 

The property which elective government possesses beyond 
any other, of representing those interests which are common 
to the wvhole population, has this further effect : it tends to 
correct the idiosyncrasy of individuals. So that, contrary to 
all expectation, there is more sameness, more uniformity of 
character, among the American people than among any other. 
In other countries the inequality of rank, the inequality iu the 
distribution of property, together with innumerable influences 
springing from these, produce the greatest diversity of char- 
acter. The Americans enjoy more freedom than any other 
people; but if the structure of society is such that all are 
obliged to conform to some common standard, this freedom 
will simply terminate in rendering the manners and modes of 
thinking of all more alike. 



232 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book ii. 



Foreigners, in noticing the commanding authority which 
the will of the majority impresses upon American society, 
object to it, and even liken it to the awe which is inspired by 
monarchical government. But the two things are of an en- 
tirely different character. That majority after all reflects 
pretty much the substantial interests and the leading opin- 
ions of all. It could not be a majority of the people, if it did 
not produce this effect. Parties may afford to magnify their 
respective differences, if the ouly effect is to set in a more 
striking light the numerous points of agreement which exist 
among them. Moreover, if the superstitious submission, 
which prevails in a monarchy, contributes to fortify monarch- 
ical institutions, the authority, which public sentiment exer- 
cises in a republic, has a mighty efficacy in giving force and 
durability to free institutions. It is very true, that if in the 
United States any one is so wicked, or so unwise, as to enter- 
tain views favorable to the establishment of monarchical or 
aristocratical government, be dare not give utterance to them. 
But it is very certain that this species of despotism which is 
exercised over the minds of men, by causing public sentiment 
to run in one channel, places the institutions and the manners 
in harmony with each other, and gives strength and consist- 
ency to the first. 

Thus, under whatever aspect we may view representative 
government, the same idea presents itself of an invisible au- 
thority residing in the state; which only represents the will 
of the people; and yet, in the imaginations of all, the high 
and the low, the rich and the poor, is clothed iu a form, which 
exacts as unlimited obedience to the laws as any other gov- 
ernment. Perhaps this phenomenon is only a manifestation 
of that tendency which the human mind constantly discovers, 
of figuring to itself some ideal standard of law and justice, 
which, although it may never be attained, yet acts as a power- 
ful regulative principle in controlling the actions of man. 
This ideal cannot be found in the partial and half-formed 
opinions of individuals. It is therefore endeavored to be 
obtained from that character of unity, which the collective 
authority of all, stamps upon society. We may occasionally 
notice something of the kind, even in the artificial forms of 
government, where the prince has pushed his authority to 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



233 



such an excess as to rouse a general popular sentiment for the 
time being. During the celebrated three days in Paris, a 
rumor was given out, by the leaders of the popular party, that 
a provisional government was formed. Sentinels were sta- 
tioned before one of the hotels, where Lafayette, Gen. Gerard, 
and the Duke de Choiseul met; and when any one came to 
the door, these sentinels would say, the government is in ses- 
sion. This idea of a government, the historian says, -gave 
ten-fold force and energy to the popular cause, and decided 
the revolution in its favor. But in the democratic republic of 
the United States, this notion of government, this abstract 
representation of law and justice, has a legitimate foundation. 
It, therefore, takes firmer hold of the imaginations of men, 
and prevents the occurrence of those dreadful commotions 
which have convulsed France and other countries. It not 
only prevents any rival notion from springing up; it prevents 
any rival institution from planting itself in the country. 

There is an institution in America which is something new 
in the history of the civilized world, and which proves with 
what facility the notion of the governors and the governed 
being one and the same, may be carried into practice. The 
religious establishments are all supported by the voluntary 
contributions of the respective congregations. It was a pre- 
vailing idea at one time, even in the United States, that if 
the state did not take religion under its own care, the relig- 
ious sentiment would fall to decay. Entirely the reverse has 
been found to be the case. There is no country in the world 
where the attention to religion is so marked and so universal 
as in the United States. The sum which is voluntarily con- 
tributed is greater than is collected in any European govern- 
ment, except Great Britain ; and the amount which is paid to 
those who perform the actual duties is larger than in any 
other, without any exception whatever. So far from infidelity 
overspreading the land, and every one doing what seems right 
in his own eyes, the restraint, which religion exercises, is more 
manifest than anywhere else. Society is singularly exempt 
from the scornful hate and the pestilential breath of the in- 
fidel. 

In this instance the governors and the governed are the 
same ; the institution is on an exceedingly large scale, for it 



234 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II 



embraces a great majority of the population. And the inter- 
ests, with which it has to do, are of unspeakable magnitude, 
as they involve all our hopes hereafter, and constitute the 
chief ties by which society is held together. For religion lies 
at the foundation of all our notions of law, and justice. Xor 
is there the least reason to believe that free institutions can 
be permanently upheld, among any but a religious people. 

It is curious to note the working of this principle, that the 
governed may govern themselves, in some of its minute rami- 
fications. There was a custom in Connecticut at one time 
(probably still existing), which permitted juries in all cases to 
retire to consider their verdicts, unattended by any officer 
charged to keep them together. "When the judge of the fede- 
ral court first visited the state for the purpose of holding a 
term, he was startled at this custom, and was so convinced 
that the laws could not be impartially administered under it, 
that he expressed a determination to banish it from the tribu- 
nal over which he presided. But a previous residence in the 
state would have satisfied him, that the verdict of juries in no 
part of the world were more free from suspicion — more unex- 
ceptionable in every respect — than in Connecticut. Too active 
an inquisition into the actions of men, frequently puts them 
upon doing the very things which were intended to be pre- 
vented. 

There is a controversy pending in England at the present . 
day, between the bench and' bar on one side, and the press on 
the other. The press undertakes to report the proceedings of 
the courts in important public trials, while they are in prog- 
ress ; and the bench and bar deny the right to do so, main- 
taining that such a practice is calculated to forestall the public 
mind, and to influence the verdicts of juries. This controversy 
commenced, or at any rate assumed a threatening aspect, 
in the time of Lord Ellenborough. That eminent judge, anx- 
ious, no doubt, to hold the scales of justice with an even hand, 
gave it to be understood, that unless the practice was desisted 
from, the most severe and exemplary mesures would be adopt- 
ed. This was repeatedly proclaimed during the trial of some 
very important criminal cases: but I believe without effect. 
Now I do not pretend to say which side is in the right, rela- 
tively to an English population: but I do not believe that any 



CHAP. II. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



235 



harm has resulted in the United States from the freest pub- 
lication of similar trials, during their progress through the 
courts. As all trials are public, in America as well as in Eng- 
land, whatever is transacted within the walls of the court 
house is immediately spread abroad by the multitude of list- 
eners who are present. And as, from imperfect apprehension, 
want of tact, or a variety of other causes, representations 
widely differing from each other will be made of the proceed- 
ings, the publication by a journal, which employs a reporter, 
for the purpose of taking down the evidence, so far from pre- 
judicing the public mind, and turning the course of justice 
aside, may contribute to correct all the erroneous notions 
which are afloat. It may be laid down as an invariable 
maxim, that the good use of an institution will be in propor- 
tion to its constant and familiar use. 

It is at a comparatively recent period that the comparison 
of hand- writing has been submitted to the jury. The old rule, 
which deferred the examination to the court exclusively, has 
been changed, and the reason assigned for the change is that 
the persons who composed the jury formerly could not write. 
As this is no longer the case, the court now derives great as- 
sistance from the judgment which is exercised by the jury on 
this difficult matter. Juries are able to govern themselves, 
although they are no longer subjected to the rigid control of 
the court. 

The freedom which females enjoy, is another remarkable 
trait in American society. In Eoman Catholic countries, in- 
deed in Protestant European communities, nothing of the 
kind is observed. It may have been supposed, proceeding 
lamely from a knowledge of what had been, to the conclusion 
what would be, that so much liberty would give rise to great 
licentiousness. The reverse is the case. In no country is the 
purity of the female character better preserved. In order to 
give to the laws of morality a controlling influence upon our 
actions, it seems indispensably necessary that we should share 
to some degree, even in youth, in the responsibility which at- 
taches to those actions. And this can only be accomplished by 
a delicate mingling of the two things, freedom and restraint. 

The liberty of the press is another example. It was once 
predicted that a press without a licenser would produce in- 



236 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



finite licentiousness in conduct and opinions, and that the 
authority of the government, if not violently overturned, would 
be secretly undermined by the incessant action of so powerful 
an agent. All such conjectures have been entirely falsified. 
In no country is the press so powerful for good, in none is 
it so powerless for evil, as in the United States. If it were 
strictly guarded, and only circulated opinions by stealth, the 
appetite for change would be constantly whetted. The most 
startlipg doctrines would gain credence, simply because they 
were forbidden. By abolishing the office of licenser, the mo- 
nopoly of the press is broken down. Opinions are harmless, 
because being free they mutually correct each other. Great 
multitudes of persons pride themselves upon holding opinions 
tlie most adverse to the public safety, when it is a privilege 
to promulgate them, whether that privilege is conferred by 
the laws, or is only obtained by stealth. Take away the 
privilege, and the appetite for all sorts of dangerous novelties 
gradually wears itself out ; for what is novel to-day, becomes 
threadbare to-morrow, and juster and more sensible views, on 
all subjects, will be more likely to make their way among the 
whole population, because the disturbing influence of the pas- 
sions will be less, instead of greater. 

If any one supposes that it has been any part of my de- 
sign to inculcate the notion, that free institutions are a panacea 
for all the evils which are incident to society, he will be greatly 
mistaken. No one can be more pressed down with a couvic- 
tion of the vices and infirmities which cling to human nature, 
whatever may be the form in which the institutions are cast. 
All I have aimed at, is to show that the democratic form of 
government is free from the objections which have been made 
to it ; that, without pretending to anything like perfection, it 
is, on the while, the best form of civil polity which can be 
devised ; one which is best fitted to bring out the greatest 
amount of good qualities, both in the individual and the citizen. 

I have, therefore, endeavored to show that representation, 
which in the beginning is an institution by the people, comes, 
in process of time, and through the instrumentality of causes 
which are immutable in their operation, to be an institution 
over as well as by the people. That it is the people who give 
being to this whole system, and that thus the governors and 
the governed may be identical and yet different. 



CHAP. III. 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 23i 



OHAPTEE III. 

SOVEREIGNTY OF THE PEOPLE — IMPORT OF THE PHRASE. 

It is certain that free institutions do not render men so per- 
fect but what they may commit great mistakes in the exercise 
of the privileges which are committed to them. It is equally 
true that in that form of government men are often led away 
by the grossest delusious, and are persuaded even to travel 
beyond the bounds which the great law of morality has pre- 
scribed. The term " sovereignty of the people" is one of those 
which has been subjected to a most fatal misconstruction. 
Because, in a republic, the political authority of the state has 
been removed from the insecure foundation on which it for- 
merly rested ; because the will of the people has been substi- 
tuted in the place of hereditary rule ; it is sometimes supposed 
that this new power possessed uulimited attributes, and that 
it was free to make any disposition which it pleased of the 
rights of any part of the community. The " juro divino" right 
has been repudiated, and yet another m^ixim has risen up in 
its place equally terrible to humanity, and destructive of the 
very interests which free institutions are designed to protect. 
There is no power on earth, the people no more than the prince, 
which can be conceived to be absolved from the eternal prin- 
ciples of justice. To assert the contrary would be to deny the 
existence of some of the most fundamental laws of our being — 
of those laws which stamp upon all human actious a character 
of right or wrong. Such laws are not mere arbitrary rules, 
without any dependence upon some governing priuciple, and 
free at any time to be taken up or laid down. They are a 
part of our original constitution, as much so as any of our 
intellectual faculties or appetites, but with a far higher au- 
thority. There is a rule then which is superior to what is 
sometimes called the will of the people, aud whieh obliges 
them to the observance of rectitude, with as high, although 



238 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



with no higher, authority than it binds the consciences of 
private individuals. 

Eight and physical power are not correlative terms. Right 
and moral power would be more nearly so. It is supposed, 
however, that there is a wide distinction between the conduct 
of individuals and of a whole nation ; that inasmuch as the 
former may be restrained by positive laws, they have neither 
the power nor the right to commit injustice ; tbat on the other 
hand, as there is no power actively to control the will of the 
people, they have from the necessity of the case, both the 
power and the right to do as they please. But, some things 
are here too hastily taken for granted. There is, properly 
speaking, no way of preventing the actions of individuals, 
any more than of a whole people. Actions may be punished 
after they are committed, but the most absolute monarch is 
obliged to permit his subjects to be tree until they have acted. 
A physical necessity compels him to do so. All the people 
cannot be goalers of all the people. If, then, because the 
state is at liberty to do as it pleases, it has the right also; 
for the same leason, private persons have the right to commit 
murder, or any other heinous offense. If it should be said, 
that as the latter may be punished afterward, this at any rate 
places an entire distinction between the two cases, the truth 
of the pioposition might be admitted. But it would never- 
theless be a su i render of the whole ground of argument, by 
making the distinction an incidental, instead of an intrinsic 
and necessary one. 

But even Ik re, there is an important step in the reason- 
ing, which is taken too hastily. Nations may be, and fre- 
quently (perhaps I should say universalis ) are, punished for 
their misdeeds. Sometimes they are punished by other na- 
tions. At others, they are cruelly scout^ed by intestine di- 
visions. France, in the reign of Louis XVI, was visited by 
the heaviest misfortunes; and these misfortunes may be 
traced directly to the corruption, which had spread like a le- 
prosy ovei tlio-e classes of society which had the manage- 
ment of public affairs. These misfortunes first fell upon the 
royal family, the nobility, and the clergy ; because the abuses 
committed in those quarters stood out in bold relief, and 
shocked the common sense of mankind. The people, whom 



CHAP. III.] 



OF FREE ' INSTITUTIONS. 



230 



the general progress of knowledge had silently lifted into 
some importance, began to feel their own strength. But 
they put forth this strength by committing all sorts of enor- 
mities. And they, in their turn, were visited by the most 
frightful calamities: 1st, by foreign wars, occasioned by the 
excesses of the revolution; 2d, by furious parties in the bosom 
of Frauce, which, after revenging themselves upon each other, 
delivered over that fine country to the wildest uproar and 
confusion ; until at length these parties were themselves ex- 
tirpated by- a military despot. And this new power, having 
fulfilled the end for which it was appoiuted by Providence, 
was suddenly overthrown, leaving behind a warniug to all 
nations, that neither kings nor people can commit crimes with 
impunity. Charles I, of Englaud, aud his iufatuated minis- 
ters, were puuished by the people ; the people were then pun- 
ished for tlie violence of which they were guilty, by the re- 
establishment of the royal power in the full pleuitude of its 
authority. James II persuaded himself that this counter rev- 
olution had lasted loug enough to show that the prerogatives 
of the crown were consolidated for all time to come, aud he 
acted upon this belief. He aud his adherents were driven into 
exile; aud it was not until all orders of men abjured the 
maxim, that might gives right, that auy approach was made 
toward the establishment of regulated freedom. 

Illustrations might be drawn from the history of the Uni- 
ted States, though iu that country they are not exhibited on 
anything like so large a scale, because the American people 
have never imagined that they possess the omnipotent author- 
ity attributed to them by slavish demagogues. There is a 
watchfulness aud circumspection now visible in the conduct of 
nations, tue result of the growing reflection of the age, which 
holds them back when they are about to leap too fist, and so 
prevents the occurrence of a world of mischief. But when- 
ever the legislatures of the American States, acting upon the 
assumed will of the people, have betrayed the trust confided 
to them, and passed laws which infringed the great rules of 
justice, misfortunes of one kind or other have been the inva- 
riable consequence. I believe, if any one were to set himself 
upon making a searching and critical examination into a sub- 
ject, which at first sight seems to be confused and mystified 



240 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



by the great variety of agencies which are simultaneously 
at work in society, it would be found that nations are even 
more certainly punished for their misdeeds than individuals. 

But it may be said, in reply to these views, which if true, 
are of so great importance, that when calamitiies are the con- 
sequence of the unlawful acts of governments or people, great 
numbers of innocent persons are involved in the suffering 
which overtakes the guilty. But, 

First, This is no answer to the argument, which is, that the 
guilty are sure to be punished, sooner or later. 

Second, The same circumstance occurs in the punishment 
of private individuals. We cannot put to death or imprison 
any man, without afflicting more or less numbers of persons 
who are dependent upon, or in some way connected with him. 
We canuot do so without frequently casting a blight over the 
reputation and hapipness of family and friends. This is an 
invariable dispensation of Providence. And it is doubtless 
so ordered, because in every such instance, some shadow of 
blame or reproach, although not immediately visible to the 
public eye, does in reality tail upon persons who are not 
openly guilty, or not guilty of the same identical fault. 

The maxim, "the king can do no wrong," has been en- 
grafted into the monarchical constitutions of Europe, because 
it has been supposed that such governments were rounded 
upon opinion. In other words, as the authority of the prince 
is a fiction, it is necessary to prop and support it by a fic- 
tion. Wherein, then, will a nation be the gainer by the es- 
tablishment of a democratic form of government, if it shall 
be declared that the people can do no wrong? It will be to 
maintain that their authority is a fiction, and that it can 
only be upheld by a fiction. Human affairs will be a prey 
to as much disorder as ever. For as the people can never, 
in any country of even tolerable extent, personally take part 
in the public administration, society will be ruled by factions. 
And the maxim, that right and power are convertible terms, 
will be made to defeat itself in practice by substituting in 
place of the will of the people, the will of a mere fraction of 
the state. I believe that the greater the amount of* power 
which is communicated to a whole nation, or to speak wiih 
more precision, the greater the proportion of* the population, 



CHAr. III.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



241 



by whom political power is exercised, the greater will be the 
probability that the laws will be just and wise, and that their 
administration will be impartial; and " vice versa," the fewer 
the number of citizens who possess political rights, the less 
the probability that the course of legislation will be charac- 
terized by an observance of the great principles of justice. 

When the whole authority which appertains to government " 
is concentered directly or indirectly in the people, as in the 
American commonwealth, the national power is the strongest; 
for then, not only is the will which moves the strongest, but 
the instruments by which it moves are most readily subser- 
vient to a common end. Such a community, if it chooses to 
put forth its strength, is equal to almost any achievement. 
If it never does exert its power to anything like the extent of 
which it is capable, it is in consequence of the self-limiting 
tendency which great popular power invariably has. For, 
consider for whom, and upon whom, this power is to be exer- 
cised. It is not enough to consider by whom it is exerted, 
without taking into account the manner in which it is obliged 
to operate, as we would do in the case of any other govern- 
ment, whose character we were desirous of sifting. 

Now in a democratic republic, the laws are made by the 
people, and for the people, and they act directly upon the peo- 
ple. And when this is the case, it becomes (not impossible 
to be sure, but) exceedingly difficult, to consult the interests 
of the few, to the prejudice of the many. The theory of such 
a government is, that the common interests of the whole com 
munity shall be consulted. But what does this phrase, com- 
mon interests of the whole community, mean. It signifies, 
undoubtedly, that the rights of all the citizens shall be equally 
guarded and respected. It is where the priviliges of A or B 
are violated for the benefit of C or D, that we say injustice 
is done to individuals. It is when the interests of one body 
of men are trampled upon for the advantage of another body, 
that injustice upon a still larger scale is committed. So that 
if the government is so constructed, as not merely to give the 
ability, ljut to render it the interest of the law-giving power 
to protect the rights of all, the probability is greatly increased 
that the rule of right will be the standard, that the laws will 
16 



242 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



be in accordance with the eternal principles of justice. Xot 
because men, living under such a government, are naturally 
more disposed to the observance of rectitude than any other 
men ; but simply because there is no way by which any con- 
siderable number of people can obtain justice for themselves, 
but by consenting that justice shall be administered to others 
also. It is a circumstance of great importance, however, that 
although there may be no original difference between men in 
this respect, and that human nature is strictly the same every- 
where — the same in Massachusetts and Ohio, as in Italy or 
Turkey — yet that the habit of living under such institutions 
for any considerable period, and the consequent experience of 
the unspeakable benefits which in the long run accrue to every 
one, contribute powerfully to fortify men in the pursuit of 
the rule of right, to incline them spontaneously, and not 
merely upon compulsion, to act correctly: and thus to raise 
the general standard of the manners, as well as that of the 
laws. And although minds which are disposed to look upon 
the dark side of everything, or minds which are fretful and 
discontented, because they cannot jump immediately to the 
fulfillment of all their desires, or realize some preconceived 
theory of their own, may make all sorts of objections to such 
a constitution of government; yet it is not the least of the 
excellencies of such a system, that it possesses the two-fold 
property of allowing the fullest latitude to the expression of 
private discontent; and yet of controlling it in such a man- 
ner that it shall do no harm to any part of the machine. 

Thus, the more thorough the establishment of free institu- 
tions, the greater is the chance for the maintenance of just 
laws and the preservation of public tranquillity; for the inter- 
ests of each become more nearly identical with the interests 
of all, and the rights of each are only a reflection of the rights 
of all. But we must distinguish between a people who have a 
democratic character and democratic institutions, and a peo- 
ple who have democratic opinions only. The last may rush 
headlong into all sorts of excesses, and with difficulty escape 
the yoke of the most galling tyranny. The first is protected 
from such calamities, because it is the capacity for freedom, 
and not the possession of it, which is able to effect an advan- 
tageous distribution of the political power of the community. 



CHAF. III.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



243 



The one was the condition of France during the revolution, the 
other is that of the United States. 

I have spoken of a democratic republic as the form of gov- 
ernment in which the greatest amount of power resides. And 
persons who are captivated by appearances may suppo e that 
this is a mistaken view. It may be argued, that the United 
States have never put forth anything like the amount of power 
which has been wielded by Great Britain or France. But the 
possession and command of power are not the same with the 
actual exercise of it. I suppose, that if we could imagine the 
American republic to be animated and borne along by some 
one predominant idea, as was the case with France and Eng- 
land, in the gigantic wars of the French revolution, more 
strength, more resources, and a greater degree of enthusiasm 
would be called into requisition, than was the case in either of 
those instances. My argument has been purposely directed to 
show that where the greatest amount of power resides in the 
nation, it will necessarily be attended with a self-limiting ten- 
dency ; that the incapacity, or rather the want of inclination, 
to exert itself will continue no longer than is proper; that if 
the solid interests of the state demand military effort, it will 
be made; and that if this species of exertion does not become 
the habitual practice of the nation, it is because the greater 
the power, the more it is drawn into a direction favorable to 
the development of the interior interests of the state, and un- 
favorable to the concentration of power in the government 
alone. In other words, if we would carry national power in 
its genuine sense to the highest possible pitch, we must make 
every man a citizen; but by so doing we render the wanton 
and useless expenditure of this power inconsistent with the 
common welfare, and therefore inconsistent with the mainten- 
ance of just and equal laws. If we were to suppose the Uni- 
ted States attacked by a confederacy of all the potentates of 
Europe, tor the express purpose of extripating free institu- 
tions (an event, the opportunity for doing which has now 
passed over), I imagine that the amount of both moral and 
physical power, which would be put forth by the nation, 
would exceed anything of the kind of which history gives an 
account. 

In the case of Great Britain and France ; if the people pos- 



244 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



sessed a higher degree of power, that is, if the national strength 
were intrinsically greater, less outward display would be made 
of it ; the resources of those states would not be wasted in the 
maintenance of vast military and naval establishments; the 
productive labor of those communities would have taken a 
direction less fitted to captivate the imagination, but infinitely 
better calculated to promote their solid prosperity. When we 
speak of one nation as very powerful, in contrast with some 
others, we ordinarily, but inconsistently enough, mean that 
the structure of society is such, as to enable a ruling caste to 
command the lives and fortunes of the major part of the pop- 
ulation ; that is, we view what is in reality a capital defect in 
the institutions, as a system of strength ; we put a part in place 
of the whole, and because this disposition of the national 
strength is so imposing in appearance, and bears with such an 
enormous weight upon the mass of the population, we con- 
clude that the nation is more powerful. Doubtless, if we were 
to imagine the vast resources of the United States placed un- 
der the command of a military despot, and the minds of men 
to be moved by an irresistible impulse, the national grandeur, 
as it is falsely termed, might be carried to the highest conceiva- 
ble point. But the effective strength of the country would 
decline, and the moral energy which now animates the people 
would be speedily extinguished. As such a scheme of govern- 
ment would commence in injustice, it could only maintain it- 
self by all sorts of injustice, and the laws would cease to be 
guided by the great rule of right, because the nation had be- 
come weaker instead of stronger. The formation of written 
constitutions, by the people themselves, is an incontestible 
proof that they believe that there is such a rule ; that it is 
superior to the mere commands of men; and that it has au- 
thority to govern in all public affairs, as well as in the private 
relations of society. Constitutions, which are originally de- 
signed to be a restraint upon the government, operate neces- 
sarily in a popular commonwealth as a restraint upon the peo- 
ple also. An individual who voluntarily places himself in a 
situation which disables him from doing wrong, gives proof of 
his superiority. He only who is strong enough to be wise can 
afford to be just. And the same is true of a whole nation. 
There is this difference between a convention exercising the 



CHAP. III.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



245 



supreme power of the people, and an ordinary legislative body : 
the former enter upon the trust committed to them with a con- 
viction that they are dealing with fundamental principles. 
The questions, what is right, what should be declared as rules, 
not temporarily, but for all time to come, are less embarrassed 
by the fleeting opinions of the day. And the ordinances which 
are framed have something of the absolute character of abstract 
truths. Hence no people would insert in their constitution 
any provision which was manifestly immoral or unjust though 
the same could not be said of a legislative assembly. All the 
things which it may or may not do, cannot be' written down in 
the constitution. And so a field of limited extent is still left 
open to exercise the judgment and discretion of the legisla- 
ture. 

But may not this body transgress the bounds which have 
been marked out by the constitution, and pass laws which, to 
use a term which is strictly an American one, are unconstitu- 
tional? May it not do so, in compliance with the will of its 
constituents, the people? And it is very certain that all this 
may be done. But in the United States the instances are ex- 
ceedingly rare where it has actually been done. In almost 
every case, where an alleged violation has occurred, it has 
afforded subject matter for fair argument and debate on both 
sides, or the legislative act complained of was passed improvi- 
dently, and was subsequently repealed. The states of New 
Hampshire, New York, Maryland, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, 
&c, passed laws which were adjudged by the supreme court of 
the union to be unconstitutional, and those states immediately 
retraced their steps, although in one instance that tribunal 
went the length of decreeing that a prospective law impaired 
the obligation of contracts, and to the extreme length of de- 
claring that, although such laws were not within the scope of 
state jurisdiction, it was competent to the federal legislature 
to pass them; and yet I confess it is exceedingly difficult for 
me to conceive how it can be competent to any legislative body 
to violate a fundamental rule of morality. 

The admission of Texas might seem to be an exception to 
these remarks. It is certain that it was viewed by one party 
as an express violation of the federal constitution. But as 
that instrument does not contain an enumeration of the cases 



24G 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book ii. 



in which the treaty-making power may be exercised, the ques- 
tion is necessarily attended with great difficulties. Certainly 
it behooves a free people to guard against a too great exten- 
sion, as well as a too narrow limitation, of the power. The 
authority by one government to accept an offer from another 
government, of a transfer of itself, so as to be incorporated 
with the former, appears at first blush to be too great an one 
to be confided to one department of the legislature. . And as 
the most natural disposition which can be made of this right, 
is to deposit it with the entire legislature, we are free to do so, 
when the constitution is absolutely silent upon the subject. 
It will hardly be supposed that the English people are unrea- 
sonably latitudianarian in their notions of legislative power. 
The tendency is rather the reverse. The disposition is to 
guard scrupulously the prerogatives of the crown. The term 
treaty-making power has even a more indefinite meaning in 
that country than it has in the United States, and might seem 
therefore to swallow up every interest which concerned the 
foreign relations of the state, and which was not absolutely 
confided to the legislature. We might well suppose that the 
cession or exchange of European territory lay fairly within 
the scope of the treaty-making power. And yet it is the opin- 
ion of the greatest English statesmen, that no such cession or 
exchange could be made, unless it was concurred in by both 
houses of parliament. 

There is no direct warrant for this interposition of the legis- 
lative authority. It can only be made out by admitting that 
the transfer of European territory, belonging to England, is 
theoretically within the treaty-making power ; and yet insist- 
ing that it is not within its spirit. Nor does it alter the aspect 
of the American question, that because the treaty-making 
power in Great Britain is vested in the king alone, it is there- 
lore necessary to guard against its exercise, in so novel a case, 
by subjecting his action to the control o€ the entire legislature. 
The question still turns upon, what is the theory of the British 
constitution, and where is the authority for limiting the treaty- 
making power in one particular case. Nor does it affect the 
argument that British statesmen hold, that such a compact 
must at least originate with the king. The difficulty still 
recurs, by what authority is the treaty-making power curtailed 



CHAP. III.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



247 



in a government where it seems to be least ambiguous, and 
least open to construction. The difficulty is similar to another 
which occurs under the American constitution. The treaty- 
making" power is conferred without limitation on the president 
and senate. Would a treaty, by which the United States were 
bound to lay a duty upon certain articles of export, be valid. 
The clause which forbids such an impost is contained in the 
article which limits the legislative power. There is no limit- 
ation whatever in the article which confers the treaty- making 
power. The settled construction, however, in America is, that 
a duty upon exports would be unauthorized in any shape what- 
ever, — in other words, that in order to give effect to the spirit 
of the constitution, we must transfer a limitation from one part 
to another part to which it has properly no relation whatever. 
And if this construction is well founded, there can be no doubt, 
but what the construction put upon the treaty-making power, 
in the admission of Texas, is also well founded. 

The "unions" of England and Scotland, and England and 
Ireland, were brought about by separate acts of the parlia- 
ments of the respective countries. The three governments 
acted upon the presumption that it was not enough to appoint 
commissioners to treat; in other words, that the measure did 
not properly fall within the treaty-making power, and that 
therefore the legislative power must be appealed to. The 
unions, therefore, were decreed by separate acts of the English 
and Scotch, and the English and Irish parliaments, and the 
proceeding was by bill, as in all other acts of legislation. 

JThere is a very interesting problem, which the power of 
altering constitutions presents in America. When the depu- 
ties of the people have assembled for this purpose, and have 
not been bound by any specific instructions, is society resolved 
into its original elements? can the mass of society be treated 
as mere " tabula rosa V so that the whole body of laws and 
institutions can be, not only prospectively, but retroactively, 
annulled. If, for instance, numerous private associations have 
grown up under the protection of the former laws, can they 
be swept away without regard to the deep and permanent 
injury which would be clone to great multitudes of private 
persons ? Th\s power has been contended for, in one state 
convention ; but it was instantly rejected, although the popu- 



248 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



lation of that state was, at the time, perhaps the most demo- 
cratic in the union ; — a remarkable proof to what an extent 
the American people are impressed with the notion, that might 
does not give right, and how deeply all orders and parties are 
convinced, that the great rules of morality and justice are not 
a gift by men, but a gift to men. It is admitted, that the 
authority of all public officers may be instantly abrogated by 
a constitutional convention ; and the argument, that the anal- 
ogy should be pursued through every species of private asso- 
ciation, which the laws had created, would appear to have 
some color. Nevertheless, the distinction has been rigidly 
adhered to, and the contrary doctrine has been proclaimed as 
both immoral, and anti-republican. If this were not the case, 
there would be nothing to prevent a convention from annulling 
all marriages ; and so introducing a host of mischiefs, which 
no time could cure. I do not pretend to say, that instances 
may not occur, of associations which are semi-political and 
semi-civil in their character, and which may be abolished by 
an " ex post facto" constitutional ordinance. But there must 
be a great and overruling necessity to authorize it to be done. 
The mischief intended to be remedied must be so glaring as to 
shock the common sense of mankind. 

What I have been most intent upon showing is, that the 
American people have been scrupulously jealous of their own 
power ; that they have endeavored to guard against the idea 
that might gives right ; and have thus given to the term 
"sovereign ty of the people" an interpretation which it has 
received in no other commonwealth, either of ancient or mod- 
ern times. 



CHAP. IV.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



249 



CHAPTER IV. 

POLITICAL TOLERATION— IS IT PRACTICABLE 1 

Religious toleration has produced tranquillity in the Chris- 
tian world ; and if toleration could also ba introduce! into the 
affairs of government, it could not fail to exercise a similar 
influence. But it does not very readily appear how this can 
be done. It is not necessary that religious sects should act; 
at least it is not necessary that they should act beyond the 
sphere of their own societies. All that is necessary, in order 
to render religious toleration complete, is to permit all denom- 
inations to enjoy freedom of thought, and to make such regu- 
lations within themselves as are conformable to their own 
creed and discipline. But the case is very different in the 
world of politics. It is made up of political parties, and of 
one or other of these parties is the governing power of the 
community composed. In other words, the government must 
be wielded by the majority ; and this majority is not only 
obliged to act, but to act beyond itself; to make rules for 
others, as well as for itself ; to preside, in short, over the in- 
terests of the whole community. There is then a wide distinc- 
tion between religious and political parties, which seems to 
place insuperable difficulties in the way of introducing political 
toleration. 

If it is possible, however, to contract the sphere within which 
parties, even the party in the majority, are permitted to act ; 
if, without questioning the authority of this last to go beyond 
itself, and to make rules for others, the occasions on which it 
exercised this right were diminished both in number and im- 
portance, it is not impossible that we might succeed in intro- 
ducing into political affairs, a spirit of toleration, which would 
exercise upon governments an influence very similar to that 
which religious toleration has exercised upon religious sects. 

For that it is not at all necessary for a religious party so to 



250 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



act as to impress its authority upon others, is a rnaxini of very 
recent date, and is an effect of the very general progress which 
the human mind has made during the last hundred years. 
Eeligion at one time was regarded as one of the chief, if not 
the chief, political concerns of the state. Religious parties 
did constantly act, and act so effectually, as to affect the life, 
liberty, and property of the citizen. The system of intoler- 
ance seemed calculated to perpetuate itself; and so long as it 
lasted, the most enlightened understandings were borne down 
by the innumerable obstacles, which stood in the way of 
religious toleration. 

It was easy to frame a plausible argument in defense of 
this state of things. It might be said that, from time imme- 
morial, religious and political questions had been so mixed, 
that to attempt to separate them would be to do violence to 
both religious and political interests ; would, at any rate, un- 
dermine the authority of government ; if for no other reason, 
simply because the minds of men had constantly run in that 
channel ; that when there was a multitude of sects in the 
state, their religious tenets would exercise a powerful influ- 
ence upon their political opinions ; that this would lay the 
foundation for intestine dissensions, which would rend the 
whole community ; that the only cure was to give unity to re- 
ligion, to establish it by law, and to exclude all dissenters 
from the privileges which were enjoyed by the favored sect ; 
that in this way the unity of the government would be pre- 
served, and its authority rendered inviolable. The inference 
then would be a necessary one, that government could no 
more avoid acting in religious matters, than it could avoid the 
duty of defending the state against foreign invasion. Argu- 
ments, in some respects similar, might now be employed to 
show the impropriety of political toleration. 

The Pope, at a very early day, became one of the most con- 
siderable potentates of Europe. Religious dogmas, of one 
kind or other, exercised complete dominion over the minds of 
men; and other princes, in order to maintain tranquillity 
among their own subjects, and to preserve an equilibrium of 
power abroad, believed that it was necessary to add to their 
political, a very large share of ecclesiastical authority also. 
Through all the ramifications of society, in public as well as 



CHAP IV.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



251 



in private life, religious and political opinions were so inter- 
woven that it seemed impossible to separate them. A war 
might be waged by the head of the church for the avowed 
purpose of imposing the most absurd and impious rites upon 
other nations, and if, as might naturally be expected, numer- 
ous adherents of these rites still lingered among those nations, 
their governments might persuade themselves that it was 
necessary to suppress freedom of religious opinion at home, in 
order to deal a successful blow upon the enemy abroad. This 
was the first occasion of religion becoming an engine of gov- 
ernment in the modern European states, and of the universal 
introduction of religious intolerance. And as religion was 
thus erected into an affair of state, a further consequence took 
place, that ecclesiastics very generally became the statesmen 
of Europe. 

The destruction of the papal power — the gradual decline of 
all the Italian commonwealths, which for centuries composed 
the most civilized part o! the European continent — the em- 
ployment of men in civil life, in all public affairs — and above 
all the general progress of kuowledge, industry, and freedom, 
have contributed to reverse the old order of things. A sep- 
aration has actually been effected, between the political inter- 
ests of the state and the religious doctrines which are taught. 

The tendency of modern society, then, is to withdraw re- 
ligion from the arena of politics, to put all sects in the pos- 
session of privileges which were formerly usurped by one, so 
that it shall no longer be necessary, nor even possible, for 
government to extend its legislation over some, in order to 
promote the aggrandizement of others. The freedom of 
thought which has grown up everywhere, at the same time 
that it has disarmed the civil magistrate of a most dangerous 
authority, has created such a multitude of sects, that it would 
sometimes be impossible to bestow power upon one, without 
pppressing a very large majority of the population. It is not 
in consequence of any speculative notions, as to the justice 
and humanity of the principle of toleration . that it has gained 
ground so rapidly : the change has been brought about by a 
total alteration in the structure of society. The popular will, 
which reflects religious as well as polttical opinions, has grad- 
ually insinuated itself into the councils of all governments ; 



252 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



until it has itself become a power of formidable import. It 
has attained this influence, either directly by virtue of the 
principle of representation, or indirectly through the instru- 
mentality of public opinion. In the former case, the utmost 
freedom of opinion is obliged to be accorded to all religious 
sects. 

There are two ways of imitating this system in the region 
of politics. One is, by extinguishing the cause of political 
disagreement ; the other, by rendering it the settled interest 
of all political parties to tolerate each other's opinions re- 
spectively. The first plan would seem to be impracticable ; 
but it is not so. Both plans are adopted in the United States, 
which being the only country where complete religious tolera- 
tion has been established, it is natural, should also be the one 
in which the nearest approach has been made to the assertion 
of political toleration. 

A written constitution, framed by representatives of the peo- 
ple, locks up, and forever withdraws from the field of party 
strife, almost all those questions which have been the fruitful 
source of discord among other communities. For almost all 
the civil commotions which have occurred in the European 
states, have been caused by a disagreement about questions 
which are no longer open to debate in America. The consti- 
tution, with the approbation of men of all parties, has placed 
them beyond the reach of the government. The authority ap- 
pertaining to the political departments is also strictly limited; 
and thus, a large class of powers which other governments 
have been in the habit of dealing with, without any control, 
cannot be exercised at all. In the same way as religion is 
withdrawn from the political world, and has given rise to re- 
ligious toleration, the fundamentals of government are also 
withdrawn from all interference with it by party ; and all men 
agree to think and to act alike with regard to them. 

As to those subjects which are left open to controversy, a, 
great approach has been made, though in another way, toward 
the establishment of political toleration. In the first place, 
every one is free to think and to speak as he pleases; and in 
the second place, the minority, so far from being excluded from 
the government, are entitled to representation in exact pro- 
portion to their numbers. This is of the greatest importance ; 



CHAP. IV.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



253 



because this body are thus placed iii a situation where they 
may uot only think and speak for all purposes, but where the 
exercise of so enviable a privilege may ultimately enable them 
to act for all purposes. It is very easy to construct a legisla- 
tive body, so as to represent only one interest in the state. It 
may be hereditary, or for life ; in which case, it would wield 
an undivided influence, and there would be no effective influ- 
ence, and there would be no effective and practical toleration 
for other classes ; or the electoral franchise may depend upon 
so high a qualification, as to produce an effect similar in its 
operation. Yery different, however, is the case in the United 
States. The legislative assemblies are composed of men of all 
parties; and although in politics, the governing authority 
cauuot deliver itself from the necessity of acting, yet so much 
freedom is enjoyed by the members who compose those assem- 
blies, that political questions borrow light from all parties. I 
believe if we were to take any considerable series of years, it 
would be found that the leadiug measures which have been 
adopted in the United States have been the fruit of the joint 
exertions of all parties ; that they have been ultimately so ar- 
ranged as to reflect in part the opinions of the majority, and 
in part those of the minority. And thus, the spectacle is no 
longer presented, of one fixed and immovable interest engross- 
ing the whole power of the state. 

The introduction of the principle of political equality is 
another step toward the establishment of the most complete 
toleration. Men are obliged to recognize the liberty of others, 
in order to maintain their own. The same revolution is effect- 
ed in politics, as was formerly brought about in religion. The 
multiplication of sects was so great as to deprive any one of 
them of a predominent influence, and so excused government 
from investing it with exclusive privileges. This first sug- 
gested the notion, that toleration was not only just, but that 
it was eminently expedient. The great diversity of opinions, 
so far from being an obstacle in the way of religious tolera- 
tion, was the means of establishing it. But the same causes 
which have multiplied religious, have also multiplied political, 
opinions, so that there is no possible way by which one party 
can be free without permitting all to be free. 

The confederate form of the American government adds ad- 



254 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book ii. 



ditional force to the principle of political toleration. The 
country is divided into a number of separate, and to most 
purposes independent, governments. And it is a consequence 
of this arrangement, that all political opinions are not sub- 
jected to the control of a central legislature. The affairs -of 
government are divided into two classes: one of which com- 
prehends the federal interests, the other 'the domestic inter- 
ests of the states. And this second class may again be di- 
vided into as many subordinate ones, as there are states com- 
posing the confederacy. If this system were not adopted, the 
local interests would be subjected to the jurisdiction of a sin 
gle legislature, which could not adapt itself to the diversified 
wants of so extensive a country, and so the laws might follow 
one undistinguishing rule for communities whose pursuit 
were ever so different. But now, the governing party in th 
national councils may, or may not, be at any one time the 
governing party in a majority of the states. The effect, in 
other words, is not merely to permit the people of each sec- 
tion of the country to exercise freedom of thought and 
speech, but to carry their opinions into practice — to frame 
their laws in conformity with their own wishes, instead of 
being governed by the general majority of the whole country. 
As all religious sects are tolerated, and placed in the posses- 
sion of equal rights, because religion is divorced from govern- 
ment, so all local parties, however numerous, are tolerated, 
and have an equal share of power, because the administration 
of the state governments is wholly disconnected with that of 
the confederacy. 

Political toleration, then, is not a solecism in politics ; it is 
actually incorporated into American institutions, though, like 
all other great blessings, they who possess it are least sensible 
of its existence. 

Political toleration is carried to a much greater extent in 
the United States, than is religious toleration in many of the 
most enlightened European governments. For let us consider 
what the term religious toleration imports, even in England. 
It does not mean that all sects are placed upon an equal foot- 
ing. All sects are permitted to enjoy their religious opinions, 
and to adopt what forms of worship they please ; but only on 
condition that they pay the tithe which is collected for the 



CHAP. IV.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



255 



support of the established clergy. That is to say, all dis- 
senters from the state religion are punished for the exercise of 
the rights of conscience. It is not necessary to recur to the 
fact, that certain oaths are still imposed upon all dissenting 
ministers, and that one class of dissenters is forbidden to hold 
some of the highest offices in the state. The assessment upon 
all denominations equally, for the support of an established 
hierarchy, makes a wide and important distinction between 
religious toleration in England and political toleration in the 
United States. And although all political parties in the latter 
are taxed for the support of government, as it is administered 
by the majority, yet there is, after all, a wonderful coincidence 
in the line of policy which is advocated by both parties. The 
points of agreement are a hundred-fold greater than those in 
which they differ. The latter acquire importance from stand- 
ing out as exceptions to the general rule. They only contrib- 
ute to keep up some animation in society, where otherwise all 
would be dull and montonous. Besides, there is no party 
established by law. The laws which are passed by the major- 
ity are the supreme rule, but the majority to-day may be the 
minority to-morrow. But in England, a powerful religious 
party is established by law, nor is there any way of moderat- 
ing its influence through the occasional ascendancy of other 
opinions. Its privileges are exclusive and permanent, and de- 
pend in no manner upon the exercise of the popular will. The 
injustice which is thus done, to a very large and enlightened 
portion of the English people, is plain enough. But it is still 
more glaring in the case of Ireland, where dissenters from the 
established church are an immense majority of the whole 
population. 



256 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book n. 



CHAPTER Y. 

MONARCHICAL GOVERNMENT. 

Wpiat is the foundation of that illusion which has caused 
such multitudes of people in all ages to yield a willing and 
implicit obedience to the rule of a prince? A weak man, or 
woman, nay a child, once seated upon the throne, exercises a 
dominion over the imaginations of men which the longest 
time, the greatest reflection and experience, seem unable to 
conquer. This vast and disproportioned influence, of one in- 
dividual above millions, seems an anomaly in the history of 
human nature. It cannot be ascribed to a persuasion among 
the community of the eminent advantages which spring from 
such a disposition of the political power. A considerable 
fraction of the community may have this persuasion in great 
strength ; but to suppose that the community as a body rea- 
soned in this way, that they proceeded upon any settled and 
deliberate view of the utility of the plan, would argue the 
existence of so high a degree of reflection as to give rise in- 
stantaneously to representative government. That fraction 
of the community who are so persuaded, are only so in con- 
sequence of their observing the operation of some other 
very different principles which rule over the mass of man- 
kind. They notice the superstitious feeling which ignorance 
engenders; they then notice the idolatrous attachment of 
superstition to every species of authority, and still more to 
the gorgeous ensigns of authority. One may observe the work- 
ings of a similar principle in the government of private fam- 
ilies. Children very generally believe their parents to be su- 
perior to other men and women. It is not until they become 
adults (aud very often not then) that they are disabused of 
this prejudice. Some observation and experience are neces- 
sary to this end. But it is obvious how much this feeling con- 
tributes to the establishment of parental authority : it is 



CHAP. V.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



257 



equally obvious how much a similar and equally mysterious 
principle contributes to the government of mankind. 

The peasant who ascends a lofty mountain is instantly 
struck, no matter how untutored he may be, with the grandeur 
and sublimity of the scene before him. A vague notion of in- 
finity is irresistibly thrust upon his mind, although he knows 
that the vast surface beneath him is composed of alternate 
patches of wood and cleared land, exactly like those in his 
own neighborhood. So when he confusedly calls to his recol- 
lection the vast population in which he lives, called a state, or 
community, he dwindles into insignificance in the comparison, 
although that vast body is only made up of men and women, 
like those in his neighborhood. In the first instance, a being 
beyond the world is suggested ; in the second, a being beyond 
himself, and yet not out of society. In both instances, the 
notion of unity seems necessary, in order to give support to 
his vague notion of immensity, and to make tolerably com- 
prehensible what would otherwise be beyond the reach of his 
faculties. The conviction of the existence of a governor of 
the universe very naturally takes possession of him ; the no- 
tion of royalty, as the impersonation of the state, is thrust 
upon him with nearly equal force. 

In a republic men all descend into the plain; they are no 
longer overpowered by the indistinct notion of immensity. 
The understanding gains the ascendancy, and they are enabled 
to form more just notions on all subjects. Their religion, 
which was at first the creature of impulse, and therefore easily 
fabricated into some form of superstition, becomes both more 
rational and more devout. In like manner they are better able 
to survey calmly, and one by one, the men and things which 
make up the great community in which they live. The feeling 
does not leave them entirely; but it now becomes subservient 
to very important ends, and is made to promote their own in- 
terests as men and citizens. Each individual has the sense of 
personal independence, not merely as applied to himself, but 
as applied to all other individuals, more and more impressed 
upon him, because the point from which he now views every- 
thing, is more favorable to cool analysis, and to setting every- 
thing in its proper light. But the reverberation of an autho- 
ity from without still reaches him. He hears of millions of 
17 



258 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



other people who are associated with him under the same gov- 
ernment. Of these millions perhaps he never saw a thousand, 
perhaps not even an hundred. The existence of those beings, 
on that very account, makes a profounder impression upon his 
mind. On an analysis, perhaps, it will be found that it is the 
notion of immensity which is gained by the view (the more in- 
distinct the more imposing) of a vast population, which serves 
to cherish and to uphold the notion of royalty. The king is 
regarded as the special representative of that vast popula- 
tion. He becomes the state itself; so that if we can give to 
the terms " state," "people," sufficient unity, republican rule 
will exercise as potent an influence over the imaginations of 
man, as monarchical rule. 

Doubtless, it would be as impossible to create the rule of an 
hereditary monarch in the United States, as it would be to 
carry physical science back to the condition in which it was 
•before the time of Bacon; and for precisely the same reason. 
For want of a rational system of experiment and observation, 
phenomena the most simple, and the most easily explained 
now, were subjected to the most crude and fanciful specula- 
tions. Superstition reigned over physical, as it still does in 
many parts of the world, over political science. Actual ex- 
periment and observation have dissolved the superstition in 
the first instance; and it is possible that the sturdy good 
sense of the nineteenth century will go a great way toward 
undermining it in the last. The doctrine of occult causes 
was precisely akin to the x>olitical illusion of which I have 
spoken. 

Where the people are immersed in ignorance, they feel 
themselves incapacitated to take any part, even the most in- 
direct, in public affairs. This feeling cannot be shaken off; 
for knowledge is power, in every department of human life; 
and wherever there is great ignorance, the desire and the 
power to will effectually are both wanting. This state^&£ 
things, for the time being at least, withdraws all political 
power from the masses, and reposes it in t lie hands of those 
who, either by rank or education, are lifted to a higher con- 
dition. Power is thus, transferred easily, and without noise or 
violence, to a very small portion of society. But whenever a 
set of institutions come to represent the opinions and feelings 



CHAP. V.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



259 



peculiar to a class, those opinions and feelings will not be un- 
derstood by those who are out of the class. The modes of 
thinking and acting among the former will begin to wear an 
air of mystery which time will only increase, until at length 
the whole machinery of what are termed great affairs, will be 
absolutely unfathomable by the multitude. 

The great men will then begin to quarrel among themselves 
for the mastery. The most warlike, or the most crafty, will 
obtain it. In the event of a vacancy to the succession, he will 
possess himself of the crown. A new revolution Will then 
take place. Before, the high places in the government, and 
the lustre which surrounded them, overpowered the imagina- 
tions of the people. They paid a sort of instinctive obedience 
to the prince; which is the same as to say, that a great power 
had risen up in support of the throne. Now, also, it is not 
against the assaults of the people that he stands in need of 
protection, for they are already overawed ; it is agaiust the 
assaults of the other great men. But the same sentiment of 
obedience, so undefined, and yet so enthusiastic, constitutes 
an impregnable barrier against those assaults also. The great 
men in the state soon discover, that although out of their own 
limited circle, nothing is understood concerning state affairs, 
yet that this very ignorance has given birth to a power which 
none but themselves have to fear. As soon as one of their 
number is made chief — as soon as he is fairly seated on the 
throne, the reverence of the multitude is directed toward him, 
and withdrawn from all others. The spell even begins to take 
possession of their own ranks. A sentiment of superstition 
in one part of society is converted into an universal conviction 
of right. The throne is fortified from within and without ; it 
is equally guarded against the violence of the multitude, and 
the conspiracies of the nobles. 

In the progress of time, it may be a very long period, the 
number of those who are placed in independent circumstances 
will be greatly augmented. Bich landed proprietors, great 
merchants, and opulent manufacturers spring up; and this 
will give birth to a new class, formed out of intermarriages 
between the families of the nobility and those of rich com- 
moners, and which is denominated the gentry. Still later, 
education is extensively diffused ; the press, although it should 



260 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



be under some restraint, spreads intelligence ; a higher and 
wider civilization takes place. A popular branch is added to 
the legislature; or if one already exists, greater influence and 
authority are conferred upon it. A remarkable crisis now 
occurs. The lustre which surrounds the throne seems to be 
more dazzling than before. Notwithstanding the spread of 
intelligence, and the general elevation of the popular mind, 
its power appears to be firmer and more durable than ever. 
The class of the rich and influential have been swelled to a 
great magnitude, and this class, for the most part, lends its 
support to the throne rather than to the people. 

Patronage, which supersedes the rough and irregular exer- 
cise of power, gives the monarch great influence among this 
class. Offices are multiplied in proportion as civilization ad- 
vances. And in addition to all this, great numbers of people 
among the middle class, fearing more from the turbulence 
and licentiousness of popular freedom than from the exercise 
of the royal prerogatives in a limited monarchy, array them- 
selves on the side of old institutions. A great party is for 
the first time formed, composed of persons whose opinions are 
founded upon the most mature and deliberate reflection. They 
would have more freedom imparted to the institutions of gov- 
ernment, if they could only see their way clearly through the 
process which leads to it. They do not believe it can be done 
without endangering the whole system. Bussia, and Austria, 
may be considered as illustrations of the first period ; France, 
and Great Britain, of the second. Prussia must be regarded 
as trembling between the two. 

The second period may be of indefinite duration. The 
country is then filled with wealth and intelligence ; civil lib- 
erty seems to be secured to all conditions of men ; a great 
middle class has been created, holding the balance of power 
in the state, and yet constantly inclined, whether from tem- 
perament, habits of reflection, or views of ambition, to throw 
the weight of its influence in favor of the superior classes. 
But, inasmuch as reflection has been roused, and a disposition 
to think and ponder upon the men aud institutions which sur- 
round them has been developed in a great multitude of minds, 
it is plain that the artificial and unnatural principles on which 
government originally hinged, are beginning to be probed and 



CHAP. V.] 



OF FKEE INSTITUTIONS. 



2G1 



comprehended, and that the great mysteries of government, 
in order to be unveiled, only wait for an opportunity favorable 
to calm and deliberate action. And when this is the case, as 
all knowledge is progressive, and even contagious, it will be 
difficult to predict with anything like certainty how long the 
institutions will be permitted to stand still, or how soon the 
hand of a thorough, and yet judicious and temperate reform, 
may fall upon them. 

When this interesting period has arrived, great numbers of 
men will unite, in order to obtain important changes in the 
government ; associations will be formed with this avowed 
design, the majority of whose members will perhaps be com- 
posed of citizens who are politically disfranchised, and yet 
consisting of so large a portion of those who are not, as to 
give great weight and authority to the opinions of the whole 
body. A majority of that part of the middle class who do 
possess political privileges will be roused, and will recoil at 
• every attempt of this new party, until at length the spirit of 
reflection, which has silently prepared the way to every 
species of salutary improvement, has effected a reconciliation 
between parties, when much will be conceded, and yet some 
substantial advantage's will be obtained by the great move- 
ment party. This revolution will be repeated at successive 
intervals, until at length the entire body, of what may be 
justly termed the middle class, are admitted to the electoral 
franchise, and rendered eligible to office, when all further 
change will cease, not merely because none other will be wise, 
but because the moral force of society will be arrayed in de- 
fense of what has been gained, and in opposition to any 
further change. Before this revolution is accomplished, the 
notion, that the middle class comprehends none but persons 
who have an interest in landed estate, will naturally be dis- 
carded. The citizens who possess personal property will be 
placed upon an equally favorable footing; nay, the rule will 
perhaps be made still wider, and every one of good character, 
and who contributes to the support of government, will be 
admitted to the electoral franchise. For, so long as any one 
of those who go to make up the effective strength of the state 
is excluded, government not only commits great injustice to a 



262 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book ii. 



numerous class of people, but it deprives itself of a powerful 
support to the laws. 

There is a fourth period which may occur : one deeply inter- 
esting to the cause of humanity, and to the final success of 
free institutions. The acquisition of so many blessings, the 
enjoyment of such delightful tranquillity, both in public and 
private life, may lead to too much repose and inactivity. Sloth 
and voluptuousness may overspread the land, and the institu- 
tions may fall in the midst of the greatest prosperity. It is 
true society will be more completely protected against the 
disaster, than at any preceding period. As the distribution 
of wealth will be more equal, the moral force of society will 
be better balanced, the means of recruiting the superior ranks 
from the classes below tlieni will be more abundant than ever. 
Still all this may not be sufficient. It may be necessary for 
society to go backward, in order again to spring forward. For 
the dissolution of an old and worn-out society has sometimes 
the effect of breathing a new spirit into the whole population.. 
All classes and conditions are then confounded together. The 
rich and the powerful are tumbled from their enviable posi- 
tion ; they are brought down to the level of the obscure and 
humble, who now begin to run a new race for all the advan- 
tages of fortune. This is a provision inherent in the constitu- 
tion of every community which has become effete with luxury 
and corruption. There may be no way of revivifying the 
elements of society, and of imparting fresh vigor to the popu- 
lation, but by passing them through the ordeal of a terrible 
adversity. But the experiment will be quite new, when any 
nation shall have traveled to the ntmost limit of the third 
period. As the institutions will then have a sort of self-pre- 
serving faculty, and wdl contain powerful antidotes to the 
evils just indicated, we do not know whether any further 
revolution will be necessary. The high probability is that it 
will not; and this is the last term — the final consummation of 
our hopes. 



CHAP. VI,] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



263 



CHAPTER VI. 

NOTICE OF THE ENGLISH CONSTITUTION. 

One of the most remarkable properties of the English gov- 
ment, is the faculty which it possesses of accommodating 
itself to alterations in the structure of society. The theory 
of the constitution is pretty much the same as it was in the 
reigns of the Tudors ; but its practical working is totally dif- 
ferent. The social organization has undergone a great change 
during the last* seventy years, and this has made a deep aud 
lasting impression upon the political institutions." The king, 
the nobility, and the ecclesiastical hierarchy, occupy the same 
relative position to each other; but they do not occupy the 
same position toward the people. This power of adapting 
itself to the altered condition of society, is one of the most 
valuable qualities which a government can posses. It is next 
in importance to positive changes in the composition of the 
government. 

The revolution I have spoken of has been silent, but pro- 
gressive. It has effected an entire change in the modes of 
thinking of all public men, and has wrought a corresponding 
change in the system by which public affairs are conducted. 
The prerogatives of the king and aristocracy are the same as 
formerly, but the people have been steadily advancing in 
strength and importance ; and how is it possible to employ 
power against the powerful % As the general improvement of 
the population, and the consequent amelioration of the man- 
ners, has imparted a new character to the temper and disposi- 
tions of individuals ; so the inability under which public men 
find themselves, of exerting even an acknowledged authority, 
renders that authority in great part merely nominal ; and the 
administration of the government in practice no longer agrees 
with what the theory imports. 

There are only two ways of effecting alterations in the politi- 
cal institutions. The one, is by sudden leaps; the other, by 



264 NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book It- 



slow and insensible advances. The first is sometimes attended 
with so much violence and confusion, as to endanger tlie exist- 
ence of the entire fabric. The second, although it avoids this 
evil, has, nevertheless, a tendency to postpoue the most wise 
and salutary changes, to a period far beyond that when society 
is ripe for their introduction. 

Montesquieu said of the British government, that it was a 
republic in disguise ; which shows what inadequate notions 
this eminent writer had formed of a republic. But it is not at 
all improbable, that it will become at some future day, not 
perhaps very distant, arej ublic in reality, and not one merely 
in disguise. When 1 perceive the great bulk of the people 
growing to the full stature of men ; and when I observe that, 
in every contest between liberty aud power, the advantages 
gained have been constantly on the side of the people, and 
never on that of the government ; I see causes in operation 
which are not only sufficient to bring about this result, but 
which seem to lead straight forward to its accomplishment. 

But how it is possible, without sudden leaps, to get beyond 
the point which has already been reached. How in other 
words, without creating an universal revolution, can the struc- 
ture of the government be changed fundamentally. It is 
through the instrumentality of that invisible but powerful 
agent, which we term public opinion, that a spirit has been 
breathed into the institutions. But public opinion does not 
construct, it only influences and modifies. It may, step by 
step, and without noise and confusion, affect the working of 
the machine; but this is very different from taking the ma- 
chine to pieces : very different from abolishing the royal power 
and the house of lords, and substituting in their place an elec- 
tive chief magistrate and senate. 

This is an obstacle, and a formidable one, in every attempt 
to alter the composition of an ancient government. Society, 
in Great Britain, is ripe for the introductiDn of free institu- 
tions, if there were no other system already in existence. The 
existence of that other system, with the vast patronage and 
influence appended to it, has a powerful tendency to counter- 
act the force of public opinion, and renders it a work of infi- 
nite delicacy to make any radical alteration whatever. 

But the process I have described may continue so long as to 



CHAP. VI.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



265 



give rise to further changes of the same character ; and, by 
molding the minds of men after a different fashion of think- 
ing, may have power sufficient to overbear the influence of 
the throne and aristocracy. In this way, what would have 
been an abrupt and violent leap at an early period of society, 
may become an easy transition at a more advanced stage. 
Everything depends upon the shock which the mind receives. 
We do violence to the political institutions, only when we do 
violence to inveterate habits of thinking. But if old associa- 
tions are broken in upon, there is no room for committing vio- 
lence in any quarter. I think it cannot be doubted, that the 
footing on which the electoral franchise, parliamentary repre- 
sentation, religious toleration, and the freedom of the press, 
now stand in Great Britain, would, in the reign of Elizabeth, 
have been regarded as a much greater movement, than would 
at the present day the entire reconstruction of the executive 
magistracy, and the house of lords. Although the second 
appears to involve a more direct and positive interference 
with established institutions, it does not run counter to the 
genius and tendency of the age: it would therefore give much 
less shock to the understandings of men. 

It is a remark of Mr. Hume, that there was, in his day, a 
constant tendency toward a diminution of the personal author- 
ity of the king. This fact has been still more observable 
since Mr. Hume wrote. And the reason why it is so is very 
obvious. The amount of real business which falls under the 
management of the executive, becomes so vast and multifari- 
ous with the advance of society, that no one man, much less a 
king, can attend to the one-hundredth part of it. The conse- 
quence is, that the whole of this business has been gradually 
transferred to an executive board. So long as it was possible 
to conceal the cause of this change from general observation, 
the king continued to retain the dazzling influence which the 
vulgar apprehension ascribes to him. But now that this cause 
is apparent to every one, the royal and the executive authority 
have ceased to be even nominally the same. For not only is 
the king totally unable to discharge this huge mass of busi- 
ness; but ministers do not even hold their places at his will. 
The direction of public affairs was formerly a very simple con- 
cern. The gratification of the king's pleasures and ambition 



266 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



comprehended the whole. And although some share of busi- 
ness talent could not well be dispensed with, yet as public 
transactions consisted for the most part of war, negotiation 
and intrigue ; the imaginations of the people very naturally 
figured the king as incomparably the most prominent actor 
upon the stage. But the case is very different now. Intel- 
lectual ability, extensive information, indefatigable industry, 
are all absolutely necessary to any tolerable success in the 
management of public affairs. The Euglish statesman now-a- 
clays has to deal chiefly with the interior interests of a densely 
peopled and highly civilized community. War, which for- 
merly employed the whole attention of the state, is becoming 
a mere episode in its history. It is impossible for any mon- 
arch, however ignorant or bigoted he may be, to misunder- 
stand the import and bearing of this great revolution in human 
affairs. With regard to the lords, I have in another chapter 
alluded to the process which seems destined to bring about 
the decay of their power and influence. Wealth constitutes 
the soul of an aristocracy. Other qualities may add lustre to 
the institution ; but it is wealth, exclusive wealth, which gives 
it a firm hold, and a commanding authority, in society. But 
riches are now obtained by such a multitude of individuals, 
that they can no longer be the foundation of a privilege. What 
was once the chief element of an aristocracy, is now a great 
element of popular power. The same causes which conspired 
to create an hereditary order, are now at work to enfeeble it. 
The English nobility are no longer the haughty and powerful 
barons who formerly lorded it over the commons. They are 
sitnply among the most polished and affluent gentlemen of the 
kingdom: guarded for the present by a sort of conventional 
respect, but no longer wielding a formidable authority over 
the rest of the population. 

The French have very recently made a fundamental altera- 
tion in the institution. The peerage is no longer hereditar}-. 
An event whi<m seventy years ago would have startled the 
public mind throughout Europe, has been brought about with 
as much facility, and has created as little sensation, as an act 
of ordinary legislation. It is true, the English nobility are a 
much wealthier body than the French. But the English com- 
mons are wealthier than the French " tiers etat," in a still 



CHAP. VI.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



267 



greater proportion. The materials for constructing an aris- 
tocracy are more near at hand in England than in France ; but 
the uses of the institution would seem to be more apparent in 
the latter than in the former country. 

An aristocracy is of two kinds. It may be so numerous, 
and engross so large a share of the landed property of the 
country, as to form a component and very substantial part of 
the whole population. This was at one period the case in 
almost every European state. It has ceased to be so every- 
where except in Eussia and Poland ; or it may consist of so 
small a number, that the only way to compensate for its want 
of strength, and to preserve it as a distinct order in the state, 
will be to make the entire members a constituent part of one 
branch of the legislature. This is the case in Great Britain, 
except so far as regards Scotch and Irish peers, a certain 
number of whom are elected by their own order to seats in the 
house of lords. Scotch and Irish peers are not so numerous 
as to prevent their sitting in one chamber, along with the 
English peers; but political considerations, growing out of 
the union of the three countries, have given rise to the present 
arrangement. 

But where a nobility compose so very small a part of the 
population, and yet are endowed with such extensive political 
authority, the incongruity between the natural influence which 
belongs to them, as well-educated gentlemen, and the artificial 
privileges heaped upon them, must strike every one of the least 
reflection, no matter how familiarized he may have become 
with such a state of society. To remodel the institution, there- 
fore, or to dispense with it altogether, would do no violence, 
would cause no disturbance to the public tranquillity. As the 
change would be strictly in accordance with the ideas of the 
age, and would but second a movement which is in full prog- 
ress, so it would affect but a mere handful of men. And there 
are probably no persons in the British empire more observant 
of the course of events, more thoroughly convinced that the 
day is approaching when it will be impossible to oppose their 
authority, even nominally, as a counterpoise to the commons, 
than the nobility themselves. 

While the active political authority of the king and nobility 
has been gradually decreasing, that of the commons has been as 



268 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



constantly advancing. The same cause, the dispersion of knowl- 
edge and property, has produced these opposite effects. But 
as the people rise in the scale of intelligence (even though we 
confine the meaning of people, to that powerful body called the 
middle class), in proportion as they partici* te, although indi- 
rectly, in the affairs of government, they are brought to a 
clearer understanding of everything which appertains to the 
machinery of government; and have a closer insight into the 
character and motives of all public men. Things which were 
before regarded as mysterious in the highest degree, and which 
were never approached without a feeling of awe, are now 
handled and touched, and become thoroughly familiar to com- 
mon apprehension. Wealth originally gave privileges to a few 
hundreds ; but it has now given intelligence to the million, 
and this enables the commoner to stand upon something like 
an equal footing with the nobleman. Men are never able to 
take exact gauge of each other's dimensions, until they are 
made to stand side by side of one another ; when those quali- 
ties, which were before so much magnified by the mist through 
which they were seen, fxssume their due proportions; and the 
individual man is valued more for what he possesses, and less 
for what he can make display of. The characters of public 
men appear grand and colossal, only in consequence of the illu- 
minated ground on which they are exhibited. 

There is one branch of the British legislature in which very 
great alterations may be made, conformable with the genius 
of the age, without immediately affectiug the absolute theory 
of the government ; although these alterations may ultimately 
disturb the whole balance of the constitution, and lead by an 
easy transition to fundamental changes in the structure of the 
government. The house of commons is elected by the people, 
but to what extent it shall be the genuine representative of the 
popular will, depends upon the high or low qualifications of 
the members, and the restrictions imposed upon the electoral 
franchise. If the qualifications in both instances were lowered, 
the power of the people would rise in proportion. Xow there 
is an evident tendency in that direction at the present day. 
The reform bill, which is one of the most memorable acts of 
the British parliament, has gone a great way toward altering 
the relative influence of different parts of the government. 



CHAP. VI.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



269 



But the achievement of one reformation renders the necessity 
of others more easily discernible, and very frequently paves 
the way for a change of the greatest magnitude, which had not 
before been drean^ed of. The basis of representation, in all 
human probability, will continue to be enlarged, until the 
house of commons has acquired such a preponderant weight, 
as to make every one see the extreme incongruity of a legis- 
lative body, which fairly represents all the substantial interests 
of the state, standing in intimate connection with two institu- 
tions which have no immediate dependence upon the public 
will. It is true the concurrence of the house of commons will 
be necessary to any further reform of parliamentary represent- 
ation. Indeed the laws, which are designed to effect that 
object, must be supposed to originate in the popular branch. 
And it may be said, that it will be the evident interest of the 
members to oppose every plan by which the field of competi- 
tion for their own seats shall be widened, or by which the 
numbers of their constituents shall be so multiplied as to 
render them less easily manageable, by either intrigue or 
bribery. These considerations did not prevent the passage of 
the act of 1832. Public opinion, when it has acquired a cer- 
tain amount of strength, acts upon the mind with as much 
force, and as absolute certainty, as the most powerful motives 
of self-interest. The temper and dispositions of men become 
inflamed, as well as their understandings enlightened. The 
new fashion of thinking becomes contagious, and takes pos- 
session of society, without any one being aware whither it is 
carrying him. Indeed the causes which lead to any great 
changes in the structure of society, are never under the imme- 
diate control of men. They determine the will, instead of the 
will determining them. 

It is through the operation of a great many causes the diffu- 
sion of knowledge and property, the growth of public opinion, 
the creation of a great middle class in society, and the giving 
to the representatives of the people a distinct voice and com- 
manding influence in the legislature, that the public mind may 
be irresistibly conducted to a change in the fundamental laws, 
by which the officers of every department of the government 
will be rendered strictly responsible. There is no good reason 
why the chief magistrate and the senate should continue to be 



270 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II 



hereditary, when the popular body has become so numerous 
and so powerful, as to swallow up the distinction of classes. 
The creation of a king and nobility may be said to have been 
originally owing to the inordinate influence which the imagina- 
tion exercises over the minds of men, at an early stage of society. 
But reflection, the most striking characteristic of the present 
age, is a wonderful extinguisher of the imagination, in all 
affairs of real life. 

It must be admitted that the principle of virtual representa- 
tion, which is incorporated into British institutions, has been 
more successful than in any other government which has ex- 
isted. But even if it were possible to perpetuate the system, 
it has many intrinsic defects. The great advantage of actual 
representation consists in its fixing the attention of all classes 
upon the conduct of public men. It thus initiates the people 
into an acquaintance with the practical working of the system, 
and fouuds their attachment to government upon their inter- 
ests. Virtual representation is without these advantages. 
However powerful public opinion may be, and although it 
may prevent acts of injustice in the gross, yet it cannot reach 
them in detail. The system of public measures, and the con- 
duct of public men, are mj.de up of an infinite number of acts, 
each of which may be inconsiderable, and yet the aggregate 
of incalculable importance. When the rulers of the state are 
not subjected to a strict accountability, they become a law to 
themselves; they create a standard of opinion within their 
own circle, which necessarily weakens the force of that gen- 
eral opinion, whose office it is to wateh over the actions of all 
the functionaries of government. It is true there is a species 
of adventitious authority attached to all human institutions 
which, after all, must come in for a very large share in the 
government of mankind. But the American experiment has 
demonstrated that tree institutions possess this quality, to as 
great extent as either monarchy or aristocracy. Tbe popular 
mind clothes all the symbols and insignia of a legitimate au- 
thority, with the same sort of veneration and respect which 
contribute to uphold the artificial terms of government. 

There is one circumstance which might be supposed to 
stand in the way of all interference with the fundamental 
laws, and to prevent any alteration in the existing theory of 



• chap. VI.] OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 271 

the government. The middle class are, in effect, the govern- 
ing class in Great Britain. By them everything must be 
done. And it may be insisted that, when this class reflect 
upon the perfect security which they now enjoy, they will be 
unwilling to exchange it for an untried state of being ; that 
they will be more strongly impressed with the advantage 
which a system of institutions, in part artificial, has in pro- 
ducing domestic quiet, and inspiring an instinctive obedience 
to the laws. They may fear that all industrious occupations, 
which now confer comfort and independence upon them, may 
be interfered with, if they give couutenance to any further 
changes, no matter how just, and how beneficial in many re- 
spects, those changes may be. In short they may be con- 
vinced, that if royalty and aristocracy are evils, they are at 
any rate necessary evils m the government of an ancient so- 
ciety. There is, no doubt, force in these considerations : but 
they presuppose, and rightly too, a high degree of reflection 
among that class ; and it is this reflection which, on the one 
hand, constitutes a guarantee against the mischiefs which are 
apprehended ; and on the other, is a £ure presage of very 
material changes in the structure of the government. These 
changes will only be postponed to a period when they will 
cease to be regarded as a revolutionary movement, and will 
appear to be a natural transition of the institutions into a 
position already prepared for them. They will be preceded 
by a very important measure: one which will place all the 
members of the middle class upon the same footing, and give 
them all an equal voice in the government. For, although I 
have represented the middle class as holding the balance of 
power, yet it is not the entire body, but only a part, which 
possesses this influence. ISTot all the middle class are compre- 
hended in the list of voters. The qualifications of electors 
might descend much lower, and take in a very numerous and 
substantial part of the population which is now left out. 
Moreover, the possession of personal, as well as real and 
leasehold property, might be made a qualification. When 
these two measures, so natural and so easy of adoption, are 
actually accomplished, the danger to society will no longer 
seem to consist in. taking down a part of the government, in 
order to reconstruct it ; but rather in permitting it to stand 



272 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II 



as it is, not representing the popular will, and yet the popular 
will possessing all power and authority. 

As I have already remarked, there is no class of men who 
have a more distinct appreciation of the very general progress 
which knowledge, industry, and morals have made among the 
English people, than the nobility themselves; none which is 
more thoroughly sensible of the goal whither things are tend- 
ing. 

Mixed government, of which the English is the most com- 
plete model, proceeds upon the principle, that there are two 
permanent classes in society whose interests are opposed to 
each other : the higher and lower orders. It proposes, there- 
fore, to secure a distinct representation to each, so that the 
two shall act concurrently, and yet each possess a veto upon 
the acts of the other. The legislature is divided into two 
chambers ; one composed of an order of nobility, the other of 
deputies of the people. In addition to this, an hereditary 
monarch is placed at the head of the system. And it may be 
asked, where is the necessity of this arrangement, when the 
great bulk of the population are already represented. It is 
in consequence of the mixed character of the population. In 
a representative republic, the composition of society is exceed- 
ingly uniform : there is no order of nobility; a character of 
consistency and homogeneity is impressed upon it from the 
beginning. But in a state differently constituted, there must 
be some additional contrivance, in order to give this character 
of unity to the whole government. It is supposed that an 
hereditary monarch, holding his title independently of the 
two great classes, will answer this purpose. It may even be 
supposed that he will answer it better, in a highly advanced 
state of society, than in one which has made little progress in 
knowledge and refinement. In the former, both classes are 
powerful; in the latter, the nobility alone are so. In the first, 
he will be not merely disposed, but compelled to act as arbiter 
between the two orders ; in the last, he will endeavor either 
to render the nobility subservient to his designs, or, failing in 
this, he will be engaged in a perpetual conflict with them. In 
either event, the interests of society would be endangered. It 
is not surprising, therefore, that nations which have made 
great progress in cultivation, and among whom knowledge is 



CHAP. VI.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



273 



widely diffused, should obstinately cling to the office of king, 
long after the state of society in which it originated has 
* passed away. 

There is an additional reason for the continuance of the 
institutions in an advanced state of society. The popular 
class itself becomes divided into two great classes, the middle 
and the plebeian class. Each of these grows in maguitude as 
the society advances; so much so, that the order of nobility 
loses its original character as a component part of the society, 
although it retains its place in the government. The great 
object now, is to bridle the unruly and licentious habits of the 
plebeian class; and the authority of a king, added to that of 
the nobility, is thought to be necessary for that purpose. If 
the power of the nobility had not declined, there would be no 
danger of their using the plebeian class, in order to curb the 
independence of the middle class. But the fact that they 
retain tbeir place in the government, while their personal 
authority is diminished, enables them, in conjunction with the 
commons, to exercise just so much influence as is necessary 
to check the encroachments of the plebeian class. An inva- 
sion of the rights of the commons, now that these have be- 
come formidable from their wealth, would be an invasion of 
their own, unless they could make the whole body of ple- 
beians instrumental in designs against the middle class. But 
this they are disabled from doing. And as the king was at 
first entrusted with the sword, in order to keep peace between 
the nobility and the people, he is now entrusted with it, in 
order to keep peace between the two orders into which the 
people itself is divided. The standing army of Great Britain 
is kept up solely for this purpose. It is part of the system ot 
internal police, only designed for the whole kingdom, as the 
constabulary force is designed for a town or county. There is 
this difference, however, between the old and new order of 
things. In the first, there was danger of encroachments of 
the nobility upon the people, and of the people upon the no- 
bility. In the last, the danger apprehended is all on one side; 
it is of encroachments of the plebeians upon the middle class. 
May there not, then, be danger in the further progiess of so- 
ciety, of an oppressive exercise of power as against the lower 
classes 1 If all other orders, king, nobility, and commons, are 
18 



274 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



leagued together against them, may they not ultimately be 
driven to the wall, and one-half of the population be subju- 
gated to the other half? But in truth, the change is highly 
favorable to great moderation in all parts of the society. In- 
stead of a powerful patrician class, and a handful of com- 
moners, we have a handful of patricians, and a vast body of 
commoners. Power has been displaced from the position it 
formerly occupied. The influence of the middle class has 
been prodigiously augmented, and that of the nobles propor- 
tionally diminished. Not only has power changed hands, but 
the new power which has risen up is of an entirely different 
character from that which it has superseded. The commons 
are too feeble, singly, to embark in any schemes detrimental to 
the public interests ; they are too numerous to make it an ob- 
ject to do so. But their strength in the aggregate, enables 
them to exercise a decisive influence, and authority, over 
other parts of the society. The intervention of the nobility 
tin the disputes between the commons and the proletarians, 
has ceased to be necessary. For, 1st, there is a stronger bond 
of connection between these two classes than between the 
nobility and the plebeians. 2d, the exercise of force in the 
name of the commons is productive of less exasperation than 
its exercise by the nobility. The great use of the commons at 
present, is to temper the power which the nobility might be 
disposed to exercise against the plebeian class. 3d, as the 
population has become more homogeneous, since the decay of 
the personal authority of the nobles, it is a system of general 
order which is now sought to be preserved ; and that end is 
best attained where the authority which presides over the 
public welfare, represents the general will of the community, 
and not merely the particular interests of a class. When 
political power was very nearly divided between the nobility 
and the commons, it was necessary, in addition to the means 
which each possessed for protecting its own interests, that a 
third power, an hereditary monarch, should be instituted to 
prevent any excess of power by either of the conflicting 
orders. And when the popular body became divided into 
two classes, the intervention of this third power was still 
deemed necessary, in order to compose their dissensions. But 
when in the further progress of society, the middle class en- 



CHAP. VI.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



275 



tirely overshadows all others, and absorbs all influence, and 
all effective power, the personal authority of the monarch is 
also enfeebled. It is then that a government in which the 
commons are represented by an executive magistrate, and two 
chambers in the legislature, becomes abundantly strong to 
quell insurrection, and insubordination to the laws. The ex- 
periment of the American government is full of instructon on 
this subject. The utmost vigor and decision have been dis- 
played by both the federal and state governments, in sup- 
pressing tumult and disorder. A government which knows 
that it represents the opinions and interests of the great body 
of the people, is necessarily a strong one, and goes straight 
forward to its end, without any of those misgivings which 
perplex the holders of a less legitimate authority. 

Mixed government, then, may be described as the transition 
state from pure monarchy to representative government. We 
must not consider it as the form in which the institutions are 
destined to be permanently cast. The most eminent English 
statesmen of both parties are accustomed to pronounce it the 
best without any qualification. ] But there is a wonderful pro- 
clivity even among the most enlightened minds, to believe 
each step in the progress of society to be the best, and the 
final step. This law of our nature is not without its use. 
Each step may be one of indefinite duration. It is important, 
therefore, to render it popular, so that society may not go 
back, instead of moving forward. The force of public opinion 
is thus arrayed in favor of each successive advance; and when 
further change becomes desirable, society is prepared for it, by 
reason of the progress it has already made. And this leads to 
other and still more important views in relation to this matter. 
For a considerable period prior to each step in advance, there 
is a general fermentation among the minds of men. New opin- 
ions and doctrines are freely discussed, and resolutely pro- 
claimed. A close observer of English society at the present 
day, one who has noticed the wide extent to which liberal 
opinions are circulated among all classes, will find more cogent 
reasons than those suggested by mere theoretical propriety, 
why the existing form of society is not destined to last forever. 
If popular intelligence and power continue to make much 
further progress, it will be impossible to preserve the senti- 



276 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



ment of monarchy and aristocrcy in its pristine force. It may 
be supposed that the commons will be disposed to uphold the 
existing frame of government from a conviction that it is the 
best on the whole: and undoubtedly in this event it will be 
maintained. But what shall we say, if among that very class, 
opinions of an opposite character are widely diffused. The 
commons may battle against the opinions of any other class, 
but they cannot make war upon their own. What is now the 
subject of frequent discussion will become matter for familiar 
every day conversation. The principles which hold together 
the old fabric are already shaken, but the blows will be so con- 
stant, that it may ultimately be undermined. An illusion of 
the immagination cannot be kept alive by reasoning upon it, 
when the creature of the imagination becomes himself the 
reasoner. A close body, like the ancient priesthood of Egypt 
and Hindostan, might persuade others to accept their impos- 
tures, but they never accepted them themselves. And when- 
ever any error or imposture is thoroughly penetrated by the 
popular mind, it is sure to be assailed on all sides, until it 
loses its force upon the imagination. When the secret can no 
longer be kept, because so many are let into it, there is an end 
of its influence upon society. A profound and original writer,* 
in exposing the unsoundness of what is termed " the develop- 
ment hypothesis," remarks, that it is impossible to travel by 
railroad, or by steamboat, without hearing the freest discus- 
sion of this question. If a doctrine so abstruse, and so far 
removed from the ordinary pursuits, and speculations of men, 
has become the subject of bold and unreserved discussion, it is 
not surprising that political questions, which however abstract, 
are mingled with all the affairs of men, should be made the 
subject of general and familiar conversation. 

In that form of society to which I have supposed the present 
current of events is tending, it will be unnecessary to disturb 
the question of universal suffrage. Every department of gov- 
ernment in the United States was representative before uni- 
versal suffrage was introduced. A moderate qualification for 
the exercise of the elective franchise would be consistent with 
the interests of that great body denominated the commons or 



* " Footsteps of the Creator." — By H. Miller. 



chap, vi.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



277 



middle class, but the artificial structures of king and nobility 
will be entirely inconsistent with those interests. 

The system of patronage which has taken such deep root in 
the British government, depends for its existence upon the in- 
stitutions of king and nobility. There is no subject which has 
more deeply engaged the attention of enlighted men in that 
country, ever since the memorable resolution introduced into 
the house of commons in the early part of this century, that 
the influence of the crown has increased, is increasing and 
ought to be diminished. It has exercised the minds of great 
numbers who had hitherto kept aloof from such speculations. 
The black book of England, a work of unimpeached authority, 
lets us into an acquaintance with the curious machinery by 
which this patronage is so wielded, as to enable a small num- 
ber to domineer over the great body of the people. I shall 
notice a few instances only : 1st. Almost all offices in the 
West Indies, both civil and judicial, are discharged by deputy, 
the principal residing in England. 2d. Pluralities exist to an 
enormous extent, both in state and church. 3d. Nine hundred 
and fifty-six pensioners and placemen receive the immense 
sum of £2,788,907. 4th. Sinecures exist for life, with rever- 
sions sometimes to persons in the cradle, to the amount of 
£1,500,000. 5th. Many offices even in Great Britain, are dis- 
charged by deputy. 6th. From the returns of 1833, there 
were sixty members of the house of commons, holding offices 
and receiving emoluments from civil appointments, sinecures, 
etc., exclusive of eighty-three holding naval and military com- 
missions. And there are so many as eighty-five members who 
enjoy church patronage. 7th. The vast patronage of the 
church, of which the king is head, and to the principal offices 
in which he appoints. 8th. The firm and irresponsible tenure 
of the whole body of civil officers. The power which this con- 
fers, the important agency it has in binding to the crown a 
vast organized corps, interested in upholding all sorts of abuses, 
is equally evident. 

The patronage of the American president is not only small 
in comparison with that of the British king, but is of a totally 
different character. Eeal duties are annexed to all the offices, 
which are dispensed by the former. If the president appoints 
with a view to his re-election, the influence emolument con- 



278 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



ferred on the persons appointed is inconsiderable. The tenure 
by which he holds his trust is short, so is that of his appoin- 
tees. Both are placed on their good behavior from a conscious- 
ness of the insecurity of their places. But the king has an 
army of officers for life; for not one in twenty go out on a 
change of administration. The fluctuation of offices in Amer- 
ica is a source of security to the institutions, independently of 
the good effect it has in introducing so large a part of the pop- 
ulation to an acquaintance with public affairs. The displace- 
ment of a number of civil officers in the United States is sim- 
ply an application of the principle of rotation, which takes 
place in the election of the president himself. The blind and 
arbitrary rule of the choice by lot, is superseded by one which 
is clear and intelligible. Removals may undoubtedly be made 
from improper motives; and I know nothing which would im- 
part to political affairs so lofty a character, as that all the 
good which is done to society should be done from perfectly 
pure motives. If this cannot be accomplished, the next thing 
most desirable, is to make sure that the good should at any 
rate be performed. The great principle in the American gov- 
ernment is, that power should never be conferred on the best 
man, which in the hands of the worst would be liable to abuse. 
Hence the rule which establishes a moderate tenure of office 
for the executive and members of the legislature ; and the same 
rule runs through the appointment of all the subordinate ad- 
ministrative officers. If I were asked what is the secret spring 
which actuated the leaders of parties in the United States, in 
the selection of a president, I should say it was the desire to 
elect the man who was most approachable. Men of moderate 
talents are much more so than men of superior endowments. 
But from the choosing men of moderate talents, and of unex- 
ceptionable character, flow a great number of consequences 
which are of inestimable advantage. A patrician class is dis- 
persed, as soon as it shows itself, while the power of the mid- 
dle class is strengthened and consolidated. And with the frail 
materials we have with which to erect government of any kind, 
or under any circumstances, we can never do so well as by re- 
posing the political power with that class chiefly. 

English writers speak of the ease with which their govern- 
ment sustains an enormous patronage. But it would be more 



CHAP. VI.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



279 



correct to speak of the ease with which a well organized sys- 
tem of patronage may be made to sustain government. For 
what is it we intend, when we speak of the ability of mon- 
archical government to sustain patronage. It simply means 
that the system of patronage is so firmly fenced in — so thor- 
oughly supported by the rich and powerful — that it becomes 
a self-perpetuating institution, producing quiet, because it 
stifles, without removing discontent. The feature which is 
most calculated to produce alarm, is the very thing which 
hides the vices ot the system from view. 

The corrupting influence of patronage is less in a republic 
than in a monarchy. 1st. Because the power and emolu- 
ments bestowed are greatly inferior. 2d. Because they are 
so insecure. 3d. Because real duties — duties which demand 
unremitted attention and industry — are attached to ail offices. 
4th. The candidates are greatly more numerous in popular 
than in monarchical governments, so that the people exercise 
a perpetual check upon each other. 5th. The list of public 
offices is exceedingly diminutive when compared with the 
number of the electors. 6th. The multitude disappointed, 
and interested in voting against the chief magistrate, when 
he is a candidate a second time, is so much more formidable 
than that of the appointees. These circumstances render the 
mischiefs of patronage in a representative republic, much less 
than the theory of such a government would lead us to sup- 
pose. The executive dispenses offices to the people, and to 
the people he is indebted for his election. Yet this patronage 
is comparatively impotent in securing his re-election. The 
number dissatisfied, in conjunction with the still greater num- 
ber who have no expectation of obtaining office, is so immense 
that it is doubtful whether one chief magistrate in ten will 
be re-elected. The practice of electing for one term has grown 
up since executive patronage has been vastly enlarged. It 
may be supposed that the public interests will be endangered 
by not re-electing an officer who has already acquired a com- 
petent knowledge of public affairs. But in proportion as the 
institutions of a country are matured and perfected, less tal- 
ent is requisite for conducting them. Public business be- 
comes organized into a regular system, and little is left for 
the incumbent, unless he has the temerity to depart from that 



280 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



system. To tbe stability of office is substituted the stability 
of a complicated system, easy to administer, aud yet difficult 
to break in upon. 

I have observed that the system of patronage in Great 
Britain contributes mightily to strengthen the power of the 
king and aristocracy. But there are some circumstances 
which, independently of the growing authority of the com- 
monalty, have a contrary tendency, and not the less so that 
they are of a more hidden character, and act silently and im- 
perceptibly upon the government. That the defects of a gov- 
ernment should gradually lead to an alteration in its struc- 
ture, will not appear surprising, but that its excellencies 
should have the same effect, is still more surprising, and would 
not be apt to strike the mind of any but a close observer. A 
very grea t change has taken place in European society in very 
modern times, in the habits and manners of what are called 
the superior classes. Formerly crimes, and every species of 
disorder, were committed by the men who belonged to those 
classes, fully as much as by those who filled the inferior ranks. 
In modern times, and more particularly in Great Britain, out- 
rages against life and property are almost entirely confined 
to the lowest walks of life. This change in the manners, is 
one reason why society is so much more easily governed than 
formerly. Crimes are now strictly personal, and are no part 
of the h bitual conduct of the governing class. This, to all 
appearance, confers a great advantage u on that class. It 
does so in reality, for a very considerable period. It evidently 
gives popularity to the government of that class, and wins 
over to it the obedience of all other orders. But it is also 
evident that the more the manners of the higher ranks are 
likened to those of the middle class, the greater is the author- 
ity and influence which the last acquire. The middle class 
in England and Scotland, are more distinguished for energy, 
sagacity, and information, than any other class during any 
period of European history. That the substantial excellen- 
cies of their character should be copied by those who wield 
so much political influence, is not so much a compliment (for 
with that we have nothing to do) as a recognition that that 
class have certain elements of public and private virtue, 
which, when they have full play, make up the whole of pub- 



CHAP. VI.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



281 



lie and private prosperity. But if these are the qualities 
most essential, both in public and private lite, they are the very 
ones which are the best fitted to govern mankind. And as 
the commonalty are a numerous and powerful body, and the 
aristocracy a small one, it may happen that the whole effec- 
tive authority of the state may slide, not from any set pur- 
pose or preconceived design, but insensibly and quietly, into 
the hands of the former; and theu it must be admitted, it 
would not be a work of great difficulty so to change the in- 
stitutions, as to make their outward form correspond with the 
genius which animated them. Perhaps it would be more 
correct to say, that it would not only not be difficult, but 
that it would be the end to which society would straight- 
forward tend, as not only the most natural, but as affording, 
in the altered condition of the social organization, the most ef- 
fectual means of giving strength and stability to the institutions. 

There is another circumstance which is calculated to arrest 
our attention. A great change has taken place in the man- 
ners of the European courts. The regime, the domestic 
police, if I may so express myself, of the princely mansion, 
is totally different from what it was formerly. Never were 
the manners so thoroughly dissolute, so corrupt, as in the 
time of Louis the Fifteenth of France, and Charles the Sec- 
ond of England. Nothing of the kind is witnessed at the 
present day. The French revolution of 1789 revolutionized 
the manners of the French court, and Napoleon was the 
first monarch who introduced something like decency and 
propriety in the princely household. The English revolution, 
a century earlier, effected the same thing in that country. 
The manners which formerly prevailed, and which were sup- 
posed to be peculiarly adapted to a court, would not be 
tolerated at the present day. 

The cause of this great change is evidently to be found 
in the power which public opinion has acquired. The prince 
and the nobles, who were elevated so high, as to be exempt 
from its control, are now made directly responsible to it. 
But what has given being to this public opinion? Evidently 
the rise of that great class whom we denominate the com- 
monalty, whose habits of life are for the most part alien 
to anything like unbridled licentiousness, and whose num- 



282 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book ii. 



bers add great weight and authority to the new law which is 
imposed upon society. Thus the prince, as well as the 
nobleman, finds himself involuntarily copying after the man- 
ners and habits of the middle class. The exterior may be more 
refined, but the ground work is the same. This singular 
and unexpected consequence, however, follows from this rev- 
olution in the manners. Kingly power, and grandeur, strike 
the imagination with infinitely less force than formerly. The 
very fact, that the monarch was lifted so high, as to be ab- 
solved from all restraint, that he was not only not amenable 
to the laws, but not amenable to those conventional rules 
which preside over the manners of a civilized society, gave 
an imposing air to everything which pertained to his office. 
How this should happen, how he who was set so high, 
whose conduct should be so just, and his manners so unex- 
ceptionable, should be polluted with so many vices, seemed 
to be inexplicable; and the fact that it was inexplicable, 
imparted additional mystery to the royal authority. That 
so startling a contradiction should exist, and no one be 
able to answer why it was permitted, acted like a charm 
upon the imagination of the masses. Kingly power was 
not only a great office, but more than that, it was a great 
mystery. The heathen mythology exercised a sovereign mas- 
tery over the popular mind, although the gods were tainted 
with every species of vice. The human mind could probably 
give no other explanation of this anomaly, than that if they 
were not lifted so high as to be absolved from all the laws 
which govern mankind, they would partake of the character 
of men, and would cease to be gods. 

Thus, in proportion as princes mend their manners, and 
practise those virtues which give dignity to the individual, 
in whatever station he is placed, in the same proportion do 
they contribute to break the spell which inspired unlimited 
obedience among all classes. If to come down to the level of 
those homely virtues, which adorn their subjects, has become 
the fashion of the day, a fashion not arbitrarily taken up, but 
imposed by the irresistible course of events, the notion may 
gradually insinuate itself into the minds of those subjects, 
that government is not a grand mystery, nor the prince an 
impersonation of the deity; that as it is now for the first 



CHAP. VI.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



283 



time a received maxim in politics that government should be 
administered for their advantage, that advantage would he 
most certainly attained by the appointment of responsible 
agents by themselves. Once a delusion of the imagination is 
broken up, men begin to reason ; and although I do not under- 
take to predict what form the institutions will assume an hun- 
dred or even fifty years hence, yet there is nothing inconceiv- 
able, nothing unreasonable, in the supposition that within 
the shortest of those periods, a firm, wise, and vigorous rep- 
resentative government may be established in the British 
Isles. 

There is, then, a very general conviction that the present 
state of things cannot last forever— that royalty and aristoc 
racy cannot stand secure amid the light of the nineteenth 
century. When this is the case, the revolution is half accom- 
plished. The middle class at a future day need not say to 
the king and his ministers, you may squander the wealth of 
the state, provided you will protect us against the assaults 
of the lower classes. For they will be able to protect them- 
selves as effectively, and with infinitely less expense ; while 
at the same time, innumerable abuses and deformities in the 
system, which have no other use than to prop up an exceed- 
ingly artificial form of government, will be extirpated. 



284 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



CHAPTER VII. 
THE LEGISLATIVE POWER. 

The great defect of what is termed pure democracy, as dis- 
tinguished from representative government, consists in this, 
that the former is without an established system of laws. 
The momentary and fluctuating will of the people constitutes 
the law on every occasion ; which is the reason why that form 
of government is the worst except despotism. Nor does there 
at first sight seem to be any reason why there should be any 
pre-established ordinances to bind the people., when they as- 
sist personally at every public deliberation. Their will con- 
stitutes the law, because there is no superior human power 
behind them to draw them back when error is about to be 
committed. For error, politically, is out of the question. 
Every such assembly is itself a convention of the people. Its 
last declaration, as it is the freshest expression of the public 
will, is also a full expression of the sovereign power of the 
state. 

But there is no democratic republic which has existed, in 
which the inconveniences, not to say the manifold evils, which 
spring from such a scheme of government, have not been felt. 
There is not one which has not departed widely from the 
theory on which it professed to be founded. Solon drew up a 
body of laws for the Athenian state, and Lycurgus one for 
Sparta. But this departure from the naked theory of demo- 
cratic government was not a step taken in favor of represent- 
ative government. It was the introduction of a capital fea- 
ture of monarchical government. It was a recognition in dis- 
guise of the one man power. Nor was the case very different 
with the Roman decemvirate. Commissioners sent abroad to 
make a selection from the laws of other countries, and exer- 
cising their own judgment as to what ordinances would be 
adapted to the Roman community, is very different from a 



chap, vii.] OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 285 

convention assembled among the people for whom the new 
code is to be framed, drawing instruction from a deep and 
careful survey of the form of society which lay before them, 
and suiting the laws exclusively to their domestic interests. 

Fortunately for most nations which have been inclined to 
establish popular government, the extent of territory has op- 
posed an insurmountable obstacle to carrying out the naked 
theory of democratic government, while the extent and di- 
verse character of the population have been equally fatal to 
the attainment of a predominant influence by one or two indi- 
viduals. It becomes impossible for the people to assemble in 
mass, and still more so for them to perform the duties which 
appertain to an executive and judicial magistracy. This com- 
pels the adoption of the principle of representation in every 
one of the political departments. Representatives, when con- 
vened under this plan as a legislative body, pass laws from 
time to time, as the exigencies of society require, until at 
length these laws become so numerous, and the chief part of 
them so adapted to the leading and permanent interests of 
the population, that they lose the character of mere tempo- 
rary regulations, and are erected into a system of fixed rules 
for the government of the community. That is, they acquire 
a higher dignity and greater importance than they had before, 
notwithstanding they are not passed "by the people, but by 
the people's deputies. The restrictions imposed upon the law- 
making power increase its solemnity, because they require a 
more exact and undivided attention to the duties which ap- 
pertain to it, than would be possible in an assembly of mil- 
lions or thousands, convened on one day, and dispersed the 
next. For in the first place, in a country of wide extent, and 
whose people are fitted for self-government, there will very 
naturally, if not necessarily, be a constitutional ordinance, 
prescribing the duties of the legislator and the limits of legis- 
lation. And in the second place, representatives, acting on 
behalf of others, in order to give any intelligible account to 
those who have deputed them, are obliged to proceed with 
considerable care in the preparation and consideration of bills. 
The laws are no longer carried by acclamation, but are con- 
ducted through a long and tedious process ; aud the language 
in which they are expressed is endeavored to be made precise 



286 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



and perspicuous, in order that the constituent may understand 
how the deputy has discharged his duty. 

Thus representation, which was at first intended to cure 
one defect in democratic government, that is, to facilitate the 
transaction of public business, comes in process of time to 
cure all defects, by substituting, as nearly as humanly speak- 
ing can be done, a government of laws in the place of one of 
force. The people are the real law-givers, the members of 
the legislative body their agents only; and yet, in conse- 
quence of the double machinery which is employed, the laws 
are made to reign supreme over the people themselves. For 
not only is the passage of all laws attended with certain 
solemnities, and published in a form which renders them 
accessible to every one ; there is another circumstance which 
contributes to impress upon them the character of a system. 
The greater the number of persons for whom the laws are 
made, the greater must be the generality of the rules which 
they will contain. It is not difficult to legislate for a small 
number of individuals, or for a considerable number collected 
in a small space, by particular enactments. But there is no 
way of legislating for millions, inhabiting an extensive coun- 
try, but by very general laws. We then make abstraction of 
everything peculiar to the individual, and take account only, 
of those circumstances in which they all agree. 

It is in proportion as the laws acquire this character of ab- 
stract general rules, that they are fitted to exercise authority 
over the minds of men ; and that in proportion as the territory 
is enlarged, and the population multiplied, the restraint which 
is imposed upon society is augmented. To reconcile a high 
degree of freedom with a due authority on the part of gov- 
ernment, is one problem which political philosophers have 
proposed to themselves. If we take refuge in monarchical or 
aristocratical government, we do indeed arm the public au- 
thority with a mighty power ; but it is at the expense of pop- 
ular liberty. If we have recourse to democratic government, 
we do not succeed in introducing a noble and generous free- 
dom into the community, while at the same time we detract 
materially from the authority of the laws, representative 
government, which is then the only alternative, is also the 
most natural direction which the institutions can take: the 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



287 



one which promises to answer all the desired ends, as well as 
we are permitted to expect. 

Government, in order to fulfill the notion of a wise and use- 
ful institution, should aim to connect the private welfare of 
individuals with the public good of the state. To lose sight 
of the former — to suppose that the proper idea of government 
was that it had regard exclusively to public affairs, and took 
little account of men's private interests, would be to form a 
very inadequate conception of it. The political institutions 
are an accessary to a great end, rather than the end iteelf. To 
permit the various occupations of individuals to be conducted 
with freedom and security, is the final aim to which they 
should tend. But in the pure form of democratic government, 
the legislative, executive, and judicial powers would all be 
wielded by the same persons in mass ; incumbering every one 
with such a multiplicity of public business, that their private 
affairs would go to ruin ; and the people would cease to be 
men, in their efforts to become citizens ; when the maxim 
should be, that in order to become citizens, it is first necessary 
to become men. And in such a constitution of society, the 
public interests also would fall to decay, as there would be 
wanting that concentrated attention which is indispensable to 
a skillful management of them. Bepreseutation, by applying 
the principle of the division of labor to the affairs of govern- 
ment, overcomes these difficulties. By collecting into a gen- 
eral system those rules which are intended to preside over the 
common interests, it gives additional authority to the laws ; 
by abstaining from intermeddling too often and too minutely 
with the actions of individuals, it gives security and content- 
ment to the people. 

There is another view equally important. Men, even in the 
prosecution of their private business, have separate and self- 
ish interests which they are ever intent upon gratifying. In 
a legislative assembly composed of a vast multitude, public 
and private interests would be confounded. The elective prin- 
ciple, without intending any such thing, effects a separation of 
the two. The number of private ends which are sought to be 
gratified, will be diminished as the assembly diminishes ; not 
only because the number of individuals exposed to the temp- 
tation is reduced, but because the power of graticfiation is less. 

4 



288 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



With no more wisdom, and fully as much selfishness as the 
great majority of mankind, the members of this body are now 
placed in a situation where their attention will be more exclu- 
sively fastened upon the public interests, aud one also which 
exposes their conduct more than ever to the scrutiny of other 
men. The people say to their deputies, as we are physically pre- 
cluded from looking after our private ends, we will, in re- 
venge, observe your conduct more strictly. The deputies, on 
the other hand, although it may conflict with their private 
ends, are obliged to assume a character of earnestness and 
of devotion to the public business. They endeavor to place 
before themselves a standard of right by which to shape their 
conduct. A representative body, in other words, to make use 
of a homely phrase, operates as a strainer in separating the 
good from the bad qualities of individuals. It brings the 
public interests out in bolder relief, and weakens the cupidity 
of private person . 

An assembly so constituted is eminently favorable to reflec- 
tion, not merely among its own members, but among the com- 
munity at large. The distribution of property and knowledge, 
in modern times, has created a wide basis for goveinment to 
stand upon. But as it has multiplied the number of persons 
who have an interest in public affairs, it has increased the in- 
tensity of party spirit. The legislative body has stated times 
for convening ; it does not meet, like the popular assemblies 
of antiquity, on every gust of wind which may blow over the 
commonwealth. Between the first ebullition of public feeliug 
and the time appointed to deliberate, six months or more may 
elapse. This interval is eminently favorable to reflection : not 
merely because it gives opportunity to so many minds to calcu- 
late the consequences of a proposed line of action, but because 
time itself has a sedative influence, and calms the most agitated 
passions. Or if we suppose that some event of very exciting 
character has occurred, when the legislature is on the eve of 
assembling, the set forms of proceeding to which such a body 
is addicted, and to which it becomes singularly attached, 
enable it easily to postpone the final determination for months, 
or even " to the first day of the succeeding session." The 
people willingly acquiesce in this delay on the part of their 
deputies, when they would not listen to it in a tumultuous 



CHAP. VII. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



289 



assembly of themselves. The claim to the whole of Oregon 
would have been carried by acclamation in a popular meeting, 
when first proposed. But as the question had to be deliber- 
ated upon in a representative body, whose responsibility was 
increased, because they were acting for others, and not merely 
for themselves, it was held under consideration for three 
years. And the manner in which it was finally adjusted, al- 
though so different from what was at first expected, met with 
a more hearty and unanimous approval from the American 
people, than almost any other public measure which has been 
adopted. 

Thus representative government is highly favorable to re- 
flection, both in and out of the legislative body. It no longer 
speaks to itself alone, as was formerly the case. So far as 
regards the mere form of deliberating, the assembly sits within 
the four walls of the capitol. But for all important purposes, 
the whole state may be considered as an extension of those 
walls. If there is any species of information which is widely 
disseminated, it is that which relates to what is transacted in 
those walls. This is conveyed not once, and in one form only, 
but repeatedly, and in every variety of shape, so as to gratify 
the utmost inquisitiveness, and to rouse the attention of the 
most censorious observer of public affairs." It has been finely 
remarked, that one office which men of high intellectual en- 
dowments perform, is to act as instruments of communication 
between the intellectual world and society at large. And a 
representative body, with all its imperfections, performs a 
service of a very similar character. 

There is no one circumstance in the history of modern com- 
munities, which more strikingly displays the great changes 
which have been wrought in the general structure of society, 
than the manner in which business is now conducted in a legis- 
lative body. There was a time, and that not very remote, 
when such an assembly did not pretend to deliberate upon, or 
in any sense of the word to conduct, the public business in 
persou, but devolved the whole burden upon a handful of indi- 
viduals. Thus the Scotch parliament, which w 7 as composed of 
the three estates of the clergy, nobility, and burgesses, never 
sat except on the day of meeting, and the day of adjournment. 
On the first, it made choice of a committee, styled " lords of 
19 



290 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



the articles," which was composed of three persons from each 
of the estates. And this committee drew up all the bills, and 
transacted the whole business. On the day appointed for the 
adjournment, these bills were submitted in mass to the parlia- 
ment, and were all on that same day either approved or re- 
jected. There was no free, open investigation, no debate, no 
account taken either one way or the other, of the serious con- 
sequences which might result from the proposed laws. Yery 
similar was the mode of proceeding in the boasted Italian re- 
publics. The law was no sooner proposed, than the votes of 
the different orders were immediately taken. It is very easy 
to understand, what otherwise seems to be a riddle, how it 
came to pass that a legislative body, whether composed of one 
or more chambers, sat in one apartment. As there was no 
discussion, none of that bold and inquisitive spirit which now 
finds its way into such an assembly ; as, in short, everything 
was conducted in silence, the several estates or orders might 
very conveniently meet in the same hall. The mode of con- 
ducting the legislative proceedings in France was even worse 
than in Scotland or Italy. Madame de Sevigne, in her letters, 
has given a very animated description of the fashion of doing 
business. The canvassing the demands of the crown, the in- 
quiry whether any and what taxes should be imposed, was not 
made in the legislative halls, but was carried on at the table 
of the nobleman who had been commissioned by the king to 
preside over the estates, or provincial legislatures ; and every- 
thing was carried by acclamation. 

If there is any danger at the present day, it is of running 
into the opposite extreme. But it is better to err on that side. 
A superfluity of debate is infinitely better than none at all, or 
even than too little. It affords unequivocal evidence of two 
things : 1st, that the interests of the great body of the people 
have grown to be something ; and 2d, that the deputies of the 
people are compelled to set themselves earnestly to work, in 
order to acquire a competent knowledge of public affairs. In 
ever 7 deliberative assembly there are always a few individuals 
who stand out prominently above their fellows, and succeed in 
fixing public attention. But it would be a great mistake to 
suppose, that the speeches of other members, of inferior en- 
dowments, were unworthy of notice ; that they were to be re- 



CHAP, vii.] OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 291 

garded as empty and prosy harangues. It not unfrequently 
happens, that the reputation of a public speaker is not so much 
owing to his intellectual power, as to some external advan- 
tages. Some men succeed full as much in consequence of 
their physical, as of their mental, organization. And one is 
often perplexed, on reading the speeches of a leading member, 
to account fqr the fame he has acquired. The speeches of 
some other members are as full of good sense, and contain 
views as just and as comprehensive. Nevertheless, it is the 
fashion to regard these last as intruders into the debate, and 
as hampering the public business by their everlasting " long- 
eurs." 

It is the population residing beyond the walls of the state 
house who in our modern societies constitute the real aud 
effective audience ; and to them a sensible speech is always 
interesting, although the voice of the speaker may be unmu- 
sical, and his manner ever so ungainly. It was remarked of 
one of the most eminent statesmen America has produced,* 
that while he sat in the house of representatives, he gave 
marked attention to the speech of every member. There was 
hardly an instance, he observed, when he" did not derive in- 
struction, or when new views were not suggested to him, by 
the speeches of persons of even inconsiderable reputation. 
There was more wisdom in the observation, than would at first 
strike the mind. The habit contracted by this eminent states- 
man, gave him a thorough insight into the workings of other 
men's minds, and was one cause of the remarkable intellectual 
ability which he himself displayed. Doubtless there is a 
reasonable share of egotism to be found in every large assem- 
bly of men. But even egotism may sometimes become our 
instructor. For as it supposes a desire to obtain the public 
approbation, and as that approbation is very insecure, unless 
there is substantial merit, the representative, even in his efforts 
to attract the notice of his constituents, is obliged to make 
himself acquainted with the merits of the questions he under- 
takes to discuss. And as I have already observed, even if the 
speeches are unnecessarily prolix, there is an incidental ad- 
vantage attending their delivery ; they keep the public mind 
in abeyance, and contribute by their very defects to cool the 



* William Lowndes. 



292 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



feelings and mature the judgment. It might be supposed that 
the danger would be on the other side ; that the country would 
be kept in a state of feverish excitement in consequence of the 
inflammatory harangues of demagogues. But the day of in- 
flammatory harangues is gone by, when the competition for 
public speaking becomes so great as it necessarily is in a 
country of free institutions. Like everything with which we 
become abundantly familiar, those harangues pall upon the 
appetite, and make us ardently desire to hear something truly 
brilliant. In ninety-nine cases in a hundred, the inflammatory 
speaker succeeds in inflaming none but himself. 

Shall the legislative power be divided'? shall it consist of 
two or more branches'? is one of those questions which the 
human mind hardly ventures to debate any longer. Public 
opinion everywhere, and in every iorm of government, except 
the absolute, has determined it in the affirmative. In the 
ancient commonwealths, in the limited monarchies of modern 
Europe, and in the United States, the division of the legisla- 
ture has been regarded as an axiom in politics. An institution 
which is founded upon long established custom, and which has 
apparently adapted itself to almost every form of society, has 
on that very account a strong claim to respect. This claim, 
however, must not be looked upon as absolutely decisive; for 
it is a fact of as ancient and as universal notoriety, as any 
other which falls under our observation, that the human mind 
is wonderfully disposed to accommodate itself to what it finds 
to be the established order of things. Here are two principles 
set over against each other ; a consideration which should 
make us exceedingly careful, but which should by no means 
dissuade us from a critical examination of the subject. 

The distribution of society into classes, was doubtless the 
foundation of the division of the legislative body. Where this 
classification did not exist, or where the inferior classes occu- 
pied an exceedingly insignificant position in the state, the 
legislature was seldom a plural body. Thus, in the earlier 
stages of English history, the great council was composed of 
the wise men, or barons only; holding their seats, not by 
virtue of an express authority delegated to them, but by a 
tenure as firm, and as independent, as that of the king. 

Society, in its rude beginnings is held together chiefly by 



chap, vil.] OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 293 

the force of tbe imagination. Where there is an immense dis- 
parity in the condition of the upper and lower ranks, where 
the first possess nearly all the property, the superstitious rev- 
erence which this circumstance inspires, irresistibly invests 
them with the legislative authority. But in proportion as 
society advances, and a different distribution of property takes 
place, whether this is occasioned by the civil wars of the 
barons, which crumble their property, or by the growth of 
trade and industry, which raises up an entirely new class, this 
superstitious feeling loses its hold upon the mind. The appro- 
priation of nearly all the property by the barons, conferred 
upon them an exhorbitant authority in comparison with the 
great majority of the population, and the gradual division of 
this property, whether in fee, or in lease, afterward transfers 
some portion of that authority to other parts of society. A 
class below the nobility makes its appearance, first in the 
towns, and afterward in the country, and this class finally suc- 
ceeds in obtaining a distinct and independent position in the 
community. While this new class is imperceptibly growing 
to manhood, the rivalry and disputes between the king and 
nobility reveal its importance, and enable it actively to assert 
a power which lay dormant before. The people have now got 
to be something, because their intervention in the controver- 
sies of the day may be turned to account by one or other of 
the parties. They now elect their own representatives, and 
this gives occasion to another chamber of the legislative body. 

But on a further advance of society, the change becomes 
more marked and important. The barons dwindle into a mere 
handful. They cease to be even virtually the representatives 
of the community. Their weight in society is personal, rather 
than that of a class. If at an early period their number is 
small, this is compensated by their possessing the entire moral 
power of the state. At an intermediate stage their numbers 
and wealth are both diminished, but not so sensibly as to de- 
prive them of their claim to constitute a separate branch of 
the legislature. At a still later period, their number is not 
only reduced, but their wealth becomes insignificant when 
compared witli that of the aggregate of the population. The 
division of the legislative power then loses its original mean- 
ing : it no longer stands upon the same foundation as formerly. 



294 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



Aud it becomes not merely matter for curious, but for strictly 
legitimate inquiry, whether the plan shall be preserved. So- 
ciety may have undergone great alterations, so that the causes 
which led to a particular political arrangement may have 
ceased to operate ; and yet others may have sprung into ex- 
istence, which equally demonstrates its utility. Perhaps the 
very prejudices which surround an ancient institution, may 
help us to ward off some other infirmity to which we will be 
exposed in constructing a new system. 

In an old and established government there is this difficulty ; 
the division of the legislature was not the result of any set 
design. Society fell into the arrangement at a period when 
circumstances controlled men instead of their controlling cir- 
cumstances. The institution grows into an usage, which in- 
corporates itself with the habits of thinking of every one. This 
gives it so firm a hold upon the imagination, that the legislator 
hardly feels as if he had power, much less has he the inclina- 
tion, to interfere with it. In a new society, and new govern- 
ment, the case is different. If there is no regular classification 
of society, no subordination of ranks, and the principle of rep- 
resentation is introduced, and yet the division of the legislature 
has been copied from older states, its entire want of adaptation 
either annuls its influence, or the influence which it has is of 
so vague and doubtful an appearance, as to withdraw public 
attention altogether from the consideration of it. 

De Lalme is almost the only writer who has undertaken to 
examine this question. The reasoning is very ingenious. 
"Whatever bars," he says, "a single legislature may make 
to restrain itself, can never be relatively to itself, anything 
more than simple resolutions ; as those bars which it might 
erect to stop its own motions, must then be within it, aud rest 
upon it, they can be no bars." This is undoubtedly true, if 
the members hold their seats by hereditary right, or where, 
being elected, the tenure is long, and the electoral franchise 
exceedingly restricted. But where the entire legislative body 
is chosen by popular suffrage, and for a limited period, a new 
principle rises up and takes the place of those bars, to wit, the 
responsibility of the members to their constituents. The con- 
dition which De Lalme was iu search of, in order to restrain the 
legislature, is then found. The bars are truly without, and 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



295 



not within, the body. De Lalme, although investigating a * 
general principle, confined his attention exclusively to British 
society, where, from time immemorial, the distinction of ranks 
existed: nor did he frame to himself any just conception of a 
commonwealth, where privileged orders had no place, and 
where the responsibility of the members shall be so direct and 
immediate, as to create an inevitable check upon their conduct. 

From this view, it would seem to follow, that the question, 
shall the legislature be divided 1 depends upon the mode of 
election, and the tenure of the members ; in other words, upon 
the provision which is made in the system for giving effect to 
the principle of responsibility, and not upon the nature of the 
power which is exercised. Iu most of tjie European states, 
the legislative body is composed of a class of nobles and of 
deputies chosen by the people, and as these two orders are 
supposed to have contrary interests, each is protected against 
the encroachments of the other, by both possessing co-ordinate 
authority, and consequently the right to veto the acts of each 
other. No such reason exists in a democratic republic. In- 
deed, one great design of that form of government is to unite 
together, as far as is practicable, the different classes of which 
society is composed, instead of inventing devices for keeping 
them asunder. It is on that very account that the principle 
of representation is introduced into every department of the 
government. All the members of the legislative assembly are 
elected, and the reason is not very apparent why they should 
be distributed into two, any more than into three or four 
chambers. This incongruity between the institution and a 
democratic form of society, may be productive of one or other 
of two results. It may give rise to much confusion and incon- 
venience in the working of the government, or its tendency to 
produce that effect, may be neutralized by the otherwise skill- 
ful structure of the body : the dead principle may be countervail- 
ed by the living one with which it is incorporated. When the 
last is the case, the institution degenerates into a mere formal 
arrangement, which is preserved simply because it is found to 
be part of an old-established system. If no glaring inconven- 
ience is perceived, people very easily persuade themselves that 
the institution is not only wise, but that it is an indipensable 
part of the machinery of free government. 



296 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



Other reasons, however, than those I have referred to, may 
be assigned for this mode of organizing the legislative body. 
It may be argued that, it is calculated to introduce more reflec- 
tion into the public deliberations than would be the case if the 
body were a single one. The United States is the only country 
which affords much light upon this part of the subject. So far 
as regards the state governments, and I purposely confine my- 
self to them as present, it is by no means certain that experi- 
ence justifies the conclusion. Perhaps, on a very close and 
attentive observation, it would be found that the division of 
the body has been productive of increased violence and ex- 
acerbation, although in ways which are at first calculated to 
elude observation ; or it may be, that a predominant idea hav- 
ing once taken possession of the mind, its influence is not 
easily weakened by all the observation which we have made. 

In order to execute this plan of accompanying every legis- 
lative measure with a greater degree of reflection, it would 
seem to be necessary that the mode of electing the two chambers 
should be different, or that at least, the terms for which the 
members of the two are chosen should be of different dura- 
tion. In both respects, there is little or no discrimination in 
much the greater part of the state governments. In Mary- 
land the senate was formerly elected, like the president of the 
United States, by a college of electors. But this feature in 
the old constitution has been superseded by the ordinary and 
more natural plan of direct choice. In Massachusetts, New 
Hampshire, North and South Carolina, a property qualifica- 
tion is necessary to entitle to a seat in either house. And the 
amount of property necessary for a senator is double that which 
is requisite for a representative. But, in the great majority 
of the states, no distinction exists. In Virginia a property 
qualification is indeed demanded of both senators and repre- 
sentatives, but the qualification is the same in both instances, 
and is none other than is required of the electors themselves. 

As to the duration of the term ; in some states senators 
and representatives are elected for the same term. This is the 
the case in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecti- 
cut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, North Carolina, Georgia, and 
Tennessee. In Maryland, senators are elected for six years. 
In Delaware, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Illinois, for four; but 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



297 



in these states the sessions of the legislature being biennial, 
the four years is equivalent to two terms only. In Virginia, 
South Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Missouri, they are 
elected for four years, and the legislature meets annually. 
In Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Alabama, they are elected 
for three, and in New York, Michigan, and Ohio, for two. 
And in these six last states the legislature also sits annually. 
The only states in which representatives are chosen for two 
terms, are South Carolina, Louisiana, and Missouri. 

All this shows an exceeding variety in the mode of compos- 
ing the two chambers, Or at least in the outward form which 
they are made to assume; and indicates, morever, that the 
notion of giving to senators a more independent tenure than 
to representatives, in order to create a balance between the 
two bodies, was often entirely lost sight of, and in no two. 
instances thoroughly carried into practice. The division of 
the legislature was copied from older communities, in which 
a regular subordination of ranks existed. But in America, 
there was no similar classification of society, and the materials 
for constructing an upper house on the European model were 
entirely wanting. 

In some of the states, candidates for the senate must have 
attained a higher age than those for the house. But the dis- 
tinction in this respect is so small as to create no material dif- 
ference in the constitution of the two chambers. In no state 
does there appear to have been the least design to create a 
council of elders. But the scheme of a plural body having 
been adopted, it was necessary to give color to it, by creating 
a distinction, however unimportant it might be. Age undoubt- 
edly, in the great majority of men, contributes to extend the 
circle of their ideas, and to mature the judgment. It would 
be difficult to fall upon any precise rule, applicable to all men, 
as there is not only a very great difference in the natural facul- 
ties of individuals, but a great difference also in the ripening 
of different minds, which possess equal power. Forty-five has 
been supposed to be the earliest period at which, in the average 
of men, the judgement is thoroughly matured, and the knowl- 
edge and experience which have been previously acquired, 
may be made available to the business of public life. But in 
no state, except Kentucky, is a higher age than thirty required, 



298 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II 



in order to entitle to a seat in the senate. In most of the 
states the candidate need not be more than twenty-five ; and 
in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Ehode Island, and 
North Carolina, persons who have attained twenty-one years 
are eligible to either house. The provisions ou this subject 
also show how very imperfectly the scheme of balancing one 
body against the other has been accomplished. In some re- 
spects the age of five and twenty is more unfavorable than 
twenty-one. The young man just arrived at majority is apt 
to be more diffident, to distrust his own powers more than he 
would if four or five years older. At five and twenty we feel 
more confidence, a greater degree of self-assurance ; even 
though there should be less ability to second our efforts. I 
am not sure, therefore, but what the constitutions of Ehode 
Island, New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina, have 
adopted the wisest plan. A man at twenty-one may be both 
more discreet, and better informed, than one at twenty -five. 
A man at twenty-five is sometimes superior in both respects 
to one at forty-five. Instead of establishing an unchangeable 
rule, the best plan is to defer the matter to the electors, and 
enable them to exercise their judgment in making the selec- 
tion. Legislation in the United States is not, as in some other 
countries, an affair which is exclusively engrossed by the no- 
bility and gentry. It is a matter in which the great bulk of 
the population have a deep stake ; and in which consequently 
they are made to take an active part. Their observation and 
experience, although not affording an unerring guide, will 
ever prevent them from going very wrong. 

There is another feature in which the upper and lower houses 
of the American legislatures differ. The last is invariably the 
most numerous body. But where the constitution of the two 
is in other respects substantially the same, the difference is 
little more than arrangement of detail. One can easily con- 
ceive of an upper house composed of so few, and of a lower 
of so great a number of members, as to create a complete 
antagonism between them. This was the case in the Athe- 
nian commonwealth, where the senate consisted of one or two 
hundred, and the popular assembly of eight thousand. It was 
so, also, in the Eoman State, where the senate contained three 
hundred, and the comitia of the centuries, or tribes, twenty or 



CHAP. VII ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



299 



thirty thousand. But the disparity in point of numbers,. as 
well as in other respects, is so inconsiderable in the American 
states, that if there is any efficacy in an upper house, it is 
doubtful whether it is not attributable to the name, rather 
than the thing. We call it an upper house ; figure it to our- 
selves as the most dignified body of the two ; and thencefor- 
ward a firm conviction takes possession of the mind, that it 
must perform some office distinct from, and of superior utility 
to, that performed by the other house. In the English gov- 
ernment, the house of peers is a less numerous body than the 
house of commons: the former consisting of four hundred 
and thirty-nine, and the last of six hundred and fifty-eight 
members. But the different operation of these two bodies, 
does not arise in the smallest degree from that circumstance. 
.It is not the fewness of the number, but the fewness of the 
class, which renders the house of peers a totally different body 
from the house of commoms. The former represents itself ; 
the last represents millions. So that if the upper house were 
the most numerous body of the two, and yet .the constitution 
of both was in other respects precisely the same as at present, 
the operation of the system would be the same. 

Copying after English precedents, the American govern- 
ments have sometimes sought to establish a difference in the 
functions, as well as in the composition, of the two chambers. 
Thus, in some of the states, money bills can only originate in 
the lower house. This is an arrangement which is obviously 
without meaning or utility in the local governments. It has 
accordingly been dropped in the constitutions of Connecticut, 
Ehode Island, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Ar- 
kansas. The members of both chambers are equally repre- 
sentatives of the people, and no very solid reason can be as- 
signed, why any bill should not be permitted to originate in 
either. One thing is certain, that notwithstanding the efforts 
which have been made to create an artificial distinction be- 
, tween the two bodies, they remain essentially the same. This it 
is which constitutes a distinguishing feature of American in- 
stitutions ; that we may vary the paraphernalia of govern- 
ment as much as we please, but it still obstinately persists, in 
every one of its departments, to be a government based upon 
the popular will. In other countries, the different structure 



300 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[BOOK II. 



of these departments is occasioned by great diversities in the 
organization of society. The difficulty is how to retain these, 
and yet to obtain so much unformity in the character of the 
population, as to dispense just and equal rules to all men. In 
America, this substantial requisite is already obtained, and 
American legislators can therefore afford to make experi- 
ments as to the mere outward form which their institutions 
shall wear. America may copy after Europe ; but the great 
problem is, can Europe copy after America'? 

The materials then for constructing an upper house, such as 
they exist in Europe, are entirely wanting in America, and I 
have doubted (for it is perhaps impossible to pronounce an 
opinion absolutely decisive when the question is of taking 
down an old, not of erecting a new institution) whether it was 
worth while to adhere to the principle of a division of the leg- 
islature in the state governments. The difference, however 
slight, in the tenure by which the members of the two cham- 
bers hold their seats, causes them sometimes to represent 
different parties; and this reflection of opposite opinions lays 
the foundation of a spirit of rivalry and animosity, which im- 
pedes the progress of business during a whole session. A sin- 
gle body having the public eye intently fixed upon it, and not dis- 
tracted by the shuffling and the maneuvering of two chambers, 
would feel a more thorough, because a more undivided, respon- 
sibility to its constituents. The true office of a minority con- 
sists in its influencing, not governing. If the legislature con- 
sisted of a single chamber, the predominant party would ab- 
stain from those extreme measures which it is now driven to 
vindicate, in consequence of the equally extreme measures 
which are defended by the chamber of the minority. Each 
dares the other to do as it says; each obstinately clings to its 
own opinions, because each knows that neither can possibly 
be carried, and in this way, both have in repeated instances 
endeavored to fly from the responsibility which they owed to 
society. 

This is the reason why the veto of the governor, on bills 
passed by the legislature, has been abolished in nearly all the 
American states. That power was at one time supposed to 
answer the same purpose as the division of the legislature : to 
maintain a salutary check upon that assembly. But experi- 
ence has demonstrated that it is as well, if not better, to place 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



301 



the legislative body in a situation where it will feel the undi- 
vided weight of the responsibility imposed upon it. 

It sometimes happens, that although the duration of the 
term for which senators and representatives are chosen is the 
same, that the two chambers still reflect the opinions of differ- 
ent parties. This circumstance is ascribable to various causes. 
Sometimes it is in consequence of the mere difference of the 
number of members which compose the two chambers. The 
districts in which senators are elected will naturally be larger 
than for representatives. And although the qualifications of 
the electors may be the same in both, yet where parties in the 
state are pretty evenly balanced, a different territorial divis- 
ion will give rise to different results in the selection of the 
members. This was recently the case in Tennessee, where 
senators and representatives are elected for the same term. 
The melancholy spectacle was presented of one house obstin- 
ately refusing to go into an election, because, on joint ballot, 
the vote would be unfavorable to the predominant party in the 
house. It is a striking proof of the soundness of public opin- 
ion in America, that where a course of conduct of this char- 
acter has been pursued, one so alien of the genius of free insti- 
tutions, it has terminated in the overthrow of the refractory 
party. The ballot box at the succeeding election has converted 
the majority into the minority. But in nome of the other nine 
states, where the term of senators and representatives is the 
same, do I recollect to have heard of such unjustifiable pro- 
ceedings. This conduct, and other of a similar character, has 
been confined to those states where the duration of the term is 
different. 

There is one of the American states in which, until recently, 
the legislature was composed of a single chamber. This is 
Vermont. And it is certain, that in no state has the coarse 
of legislation been more uniformly marked by good sense and 
propriety; in none has there been a more watchful attention 
to the interests of the people. At an early period, the legisla- 
ture of Pennsylvania was also a single body. This arrange- 
ment was altered before there had been sufficient time to test 
the experiment. The brilliant repartee of Mr. Adams in an- 
swer to Dr. Frankliu, who was in favor of a single chamber, 
captivated the minds of men, and was decisive of the question, 



302 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



at a period when the fashion of thinking in America was so 
much molded upon European institutions. 

De Lalme attributes the wise and circumspect conduct of 
the English parliament to its division into two chambers. 
But the theory of the constitution was precisely the same in 
the times of the Tudors, and Stuarts, as when De Lalme 
wrote. At the latter period, England enjoyed a considerable 
share of internal tranquillity, because the people, having risen 
in importance, had become a sort of make-weight in the gov- 
ernment. During the two former periods, the government 
was little better than a despotism, and the laws were fre- 
quently the most iniquitous imaginable. So great a revolu- 
tion, the theory of the constitution remaining the same, can 
only be accounted for, by supposing that some equally im- 
portant change had taken place in the structure of society, 
and consequently, in the practical working of the govern- 
ment. And this change consists in nothing less than the 
gradual elevation of the popular body, and the creation of a 
well defined tribunal of public opinion which, impressing its 
authority powerfully upon the whole system, has maintained 
each department in its proper place. These are the bars 
which have been erected to fence off the encroachments of 
the legislative power. The condition which De Lalme de- 
manded is obtained. The bars are not merely without the 
chambers ; they are without the entire body ; and are much 
more effectual than any curious adjustment of the interior 
mechanicism of the government. 

I have, in a preceding chapter, alluded to the very important 
balance which is maintained between the government and the 
power out of the government; and the British constitution, at 
the time De Lalme wrote, and still more at the present day, 
affords an instructive example of it. Construct government 
as you will, if it is afterward left to itself, and permitted to 
command its own motions, the power it wields may be distorted 
to any purpose. But if there is a corresponding power — a pre- 
siding influence without — which subjects it unceasingly to the 
action of public opinion, even a faulty arrangement of the parts 
will be corrected. The English chambers no longer encroach 
as they formerly did on each other's rights, nor on the rights 
of the people ; because the popular body has become the first 



CHAP. VII ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



303 



estate in the realm, and holds in check, both the king and the 
nobility., as well as the commons. This is the simple explana- 
tion of the difficulty : and if one born under the Henrys could 
rise from his grave, he would be struck with amazement, at 
finding that British councils were conducted with so much 
more skill and wisdom than formerly; and that public men, 
in spite of the selfish interests which fill their bosoms, are 
placed under a restraint, from which the most powerful stand- 
ing army could not deliver them. 

In the times of the Tudors and Stuarts, not to go back to a 
still earlier period, the legislative power was divided as it now 
is. But under those priuces, the country was either ruled by 
a stern and rigorous despotism, or it was a scene of incessant 
broils. At the present day, a species of virtual representation 
has been established in both houses of parliament, which, al- 
though it falls far short of an actual representation, has had 
power sufficient to work a most striking alteration in the 
conduct of public affairs. 

De Lalme also attributes the remarkable solidity of the 
crown in Great Britain, in part, to the division of the legisla- 
ture. Bat this is a circumstance which is not peculiar to that 
country. The same thing is observable of all the kingdoms 
and principalities of northern and central Europe, in some of 
which there is no proper legislative body ; in some the legisla- 
tive body consists of a single chamber, a ad in others of more 
than two chambers. The compact and vigorous authority of 
the royal power in Russia, Austria, Prussia, Sweden and Den- 
mark, is quite as remarkable as it is in Great Britain, and 
affords a strong contrast to the feeble condition of the crown 
in Spain and Portugal, in both of which there are two cham- 
bers, modeled after the English system. 

This singular stability of the royal power throughout the 
greater part of the kingdoms of Europe, a circumstance of ap- 
parently evil omen to the growth of popular power, but in 
reality favorable to it, is mainly ascribable to the fact that the 
most absolute monarchs are insensibly accommodating them- 
selves to the new ideas of the age. They are more restrained, 
and are therefore permitted to be more secure. A king is 
compelled not so much to truck and huckster to the great men 
who surround the throne, as to cultivate the good will of the 



304 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



people. The close intercourse which now exists between all 
the European communities, has created a sort of informal 
league between them; and one member, although tar behind 
some of the others in civilization, is powerfully acted upon by 
the institutions which exist in those others. Although the 
condition of society is such, that no powerful middle class ex- 
ists, as in Great Britain, to control the government, yet pub- 
lic opinion in Great Britain, in France, Belgium, Holland, and 
throughout nearly all Germany, exercises a potent extra terri- 
torial influence, and is insensibly begetting habits of thinking 
and acting among princes, totally different from what they 
were accustomed to formerly. This influence has even pene- 
trated the Turkish empire, and the sovereign is accordingly a 
wiser and a more discreet ruler, than were most of the English 
Henrys. He has consented to do what they never dreamed 
of — to draw up an instrument imposing limitations upon his 
own authority, to appoint a commission to digest a code of 
jurisprudence, after the plan of the celebrated code civil of 
France, and to establish a system of public schools for the 
education of the people. The influence has obviously come 
from abroad; and without indulging in any idle notions con- 
cerning the progress of society, we may reasonably figure to 
ourselves a day when each of the European states will bear a 
resemblance to the various districts or provinces of one great 
commonwealth, and when the fashion of copying after those 
which have attained the higl^est civilization, will be even 
stronger and more general than it is at the present day. I 
know that when the most absolute sovereign of the north of 
Europe is concerting measures to introduce jury trial into his 
kingdom, that there is a power at work which belongs to the 
age, not to the individual. 

I would not be understood as maintaining that there are 
not good reasons for the division of the legislature in the Eu- 
ropean states, nor that this arrangement may not have been 
productive of advantage. Given, a constitution of society in 
which a regular subordination of ranks exists, and is firmly 
upheld by the laws, and it may be wise tor a time, the dura- 
tion of which it is difficult to calculate, to place the privileged 
order in a separate chamber. But there are other causes which 
have contributed to the wisdom of English councils, and the 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



305 



general security of civil liberty, which are absolutely over- 
whelming in comparison of the division of the legislature. 
And perhaps the period is approaching, when it will be advan- 
tageous for both government and people, that some different 
disposition should be made of that department, so that even 
if the plan of dividing it is adhered to, it may at any rate be 
placed upon a wider foundation. 

I have also, in treating of American institutions, confined 
myself to the domestic government of the states. And there 
does not appear to be any convincing reason why the division 
of the legislative power should be retained in them, other than 
that the institution has been incorporated in the general habits 
of thinking, and that an institution which is upheld by the 
imagination is sometimes as formidable and as difficult to be 
removed as any other. 

But the national government presents an entirely different 
case. It is a federal, and not a consolidated, republic ; and 
the most obvious way of executing this plan, and maintaining 
the separate existence of the states, was to establish two cham- 
bers of legislation ; in one of which the people of the states 
should be treated as co-equal sovereignties, and therefore 
entitled to the same number of representatives. An upper 
house was thus constructed, which instead of being composed 
of a body of nobles, consisted, like the lower house of repre- 
sentatives, of the people. But the apportionment of these 
representatives is different from what it is in the lower house. 

This plan of constructing a senatorial body is entirely new. 
The chamber of nobles in the German diet bears no resem- 
blance to it, as the members hold their seats "de jure," and 
not by election. The American system, in this respect, may 
be said to constitute the transition state, from the artificial 
structure of the upper house in all the European states, to 
the more simple and direct plan of founding it like the other 
house upon an equal representation of the people. The sys- 
tem may exert an unspeakable influence upon other communi- 
ties as it demonstrates the practicability of composing a sen- 
atorial body of other materials than an order of nobility, and 
shows that a house so composed may possess as great stability., 
and display as mnch wisdom and firmness, as any privileged 
body which has ever existed. The plan may suggest new views 
20 



306 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



to the enlightened minds which help to control the destinies 
of other countries. 

But I am treating of free institutions generally, and not 
merely of the particular form in which they have been cast in 
the American union. The separate and independent existence 
of the members of the American confederation, was an acci- 
dental circumstance. The republican form of government can- 
not be maintained, in a country of considerable extent, with- 
out the establishment of local or domestic jurisdictions; but 
it may well exist, although those jurisdictions should not pos- 
sess the extensive powers which belong to them in the United 
States. 

The question then presents itself directly — is there any solid 
reason for distributing the legislative power in a simple repub- 
lic into two chambers'? and I am of the opinion that there is, 
so far as regards the national assembly only. As, in such a 
form of government, the local jurisdiction would emanate from 
the aggregate authority of the state, instead of the central 
government emanating from them, the parts would neither 
be sovereign states, nor would they contain an equal popula- 
tion. As a census is now taken in the United States, for the 
purpose of apportioning the representation in the lower house 
to the population ; so in a simple republic, a census would have 
the double effect of varying the limits of the several compart- 
ments, and adjusting the representation equally among all. 
There would then be no reason for constructing an upper 
house upon the principle which governs the composition of the 
American senate. There would be no reason for so doing, even 
If the territorial divisions were ever so unequal; but as these 
divisions would not contain sovereign states, there would be 
no motive for making them unequal at the commencement, 
and of course none for permitting them to become so after the 
government had gone into operation. They would be created 
for the purpose of administering the local interests, pretty 
much on the same plan as these interests are administered by 
the state governments of America; because in an extensive 
couutry, a single legislature, whether its character be national 
or federal, cannot, either easily or advantageously, superin- 
tend the vast amount of business which properly falls under 
the cognizance of government. I have in another chapter de- 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



307 



clared, that it would be a mistake to suppose, because the 
republic was a simple, and not a confederate one, that there- 
fore domestic jurisdictions could be dispensed with. Their 
use would be the same as that of the local governments in 
America; but the mode of constructing them would be differ- 
ent. Iu the United States, not only are the domestic legisla- 
tures a necessary part of the machinery of the government, 
but it would be impossible to get along without a great num- 
ber of still lesser jurisdictions, subordinate to, and inclosed 
within the state governments, such as county and township 
jurisdictions. And the same would be the case in any other 
community, provided the form of government were republican.. 

We cannot expect that all the republics which may hereafter 
exist will be composed of independent states. Some may 
spring up in Europe out of the consolidated governments 
which now exist. At any rate the question cannot be avoided, 
shall the legislative power in a simple republic be divided? 

I have said that I incline to the opinion that, so far as re- 
gards the national legislature alone, it should be. But my 
reasons are directly opposite to those which are assigned by 
De Lalme. He would divide the legislature in order to make 
one chamber control the other. This is the exterior bar to 
which he refers ; not a bar exterior to the whole body, and re- 
siding in the society, but a bar exterior to each chamber, and 
therefore imposed by each upon the other. In a democratic 
republic this principle of control is superseded by another of 
far more efficacy, because of more comprehensive influence : 
the responsibility of the entire body to the people who elect it. 
The bars are then not merely exterior to each chamber, but 
they are exterior to the whole body, and act with a force which 
is in constant activity. The defect now is the reverse of. 
that of which De Lalme complains. The bars are too strong, 
instead of too weak. The control is too stringent, instead of 
being too easy. In other words, as the legislators are the mere 
agents of the people, and elected for a short period, not merely 
will they be constantly subjected to the influence of public 
opinion in all their deliberations, which is a most happy cir- 
cumstance; but there will be a constant tendency to the for- 
mation of a counterfeit public opinion also, which, in times of 
great party excitement, it may be difficult to distinguish from, 



308 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



the other. This will unavoidably be the case in a country of 
wide extent. In order to condense public opinion, as it is 
termed, caucuses and cliques will be formed, and these may 
very imperfectly represent the opinions of the people. Public 
associations are the genuine offspring of free institutions; but 
it is not all associations which are entitled to this character. 
A knot of busy, active politicians will sometimes succeed in 
robbing other people of their opiuions, instead of representing 
them. It becomes very important, therefore, to place the leg- 
islative body in a situation where it will be enabled to distin- 
guish the real from the constructive majority, and to protect 
the community from the machinations of the last. JB\ divid- 
ing the body the proceedings are attended with a greater num- 
ber of forms, aud with more solemnity. The discussions will 
•be more thorough : the time consumed will be longer: add to 
which, dividing the body is like creating two bodies. The au- 
thority and influence attributed to it will be doubled, and all 
ithese circumstances will not only contribute to a clear percep- 
tion of what is the genuine public sentiment, but will give to 
the body, or to one chamber at least, ability to resist the in- 
;fluence of the counterfeit representation without. Ir is, there- 
fore, not with the view of detracting from the authority of the 
legislature, but of adding to it, and atoning for it* weakness, 
that I would divide it. Doubtless it seems to he too strong, 
when it is carried away by the misguided passions of a part of 
the population, who cause their voices to be heaid above-those 
of a majority of the people. But this is a symptom of weak- 
ness, not of strength; since it exhibits the body as a prey to 
the artifices of those who are not its real constituents. 

I have said that there are two essential properties of good 
governments first, a susceptibility of receiving an influence 
from without, of being acted upon by society ; and second, a 
corresponding power of reacting upon that society. It is in 
order to conciliate these two opposite ends, that I would, in a 
• country of wide extent, where it is difficult to collect and ma- 
ture public opinion, divide the legislative body 

But it does not follow that it is necessary to pursue the 
•same plan in constructing the legislative power of the domes- 
tic governments. The great principle of responsibility has 
.superseded the check which one chamber formerly exerted 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



309 



upon the other. And that principle should never be modi- 
fied, unless it is necessary in order to render the responsibility 
more strict. Money bills could only originate in the lower 
house, because the constituents of the lower house were the 
persons upon whom the weight of taxation fell most heavily. 
The possession of the privilege was an effectual check upon 
the proceedings of the upper house. But where both cham- 
bers are composed of representatives of the people, and the 
territory is of no greater extent than the American states, 
there does not appear to be any good reason for distributing 
the members into two chambers, unless it is that the plan is 
already identified with all the notions which have been formed 
of regular government; and that it is sometimes as difficult to 
root up an idea, as it is to build up an institution. Vermont 
had a single chamber until 1836 ; and the business of legisla- 
tion was conducted with the greatest wisdom and prudence. 
The see-saw legislation, the refractory conduct pursued by the 
legislatures of other states, were unknown, because the sim- 
ple character of the body took away the temptation and the 
ability so to act. 

The allusion to the plan of local governments suggests an- 
other view of great importance. There is a division of the 
legislature, which proceeds upon a totally different plan from 
that contemplated by De Lalme, and Montesquieu, and which 
is much more efficacious than the old scheme. It consists in 
a division of the power, and not merely of the body. Ameri- 
can institutions afford the only fair example of this plan. 
The legislative power, in this great commonwealth, is not de- 
volved upon one body; it is divided between the national as- 
sembly and the thirty legislatures of the states. The powers 
which appertain to the domestic interests of the states are 
separated from those which relate to their exterior interests, 
and thus an arrangement, which was originally intended to 
answer one purpose, has the effect of answering another 
equally important. The care of the national interests is in- 
trusted with the congress ; that of the local interests with 
local assemblies; so that whatever might be the constitution 
of these thirty-one bodies, whether they were each composed 
of a single or a double chamber, the legislative power would 
be effectually divided. This arrangement is productive of far 



310 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



more important results than a mere division of the body. It 
is true, we may call it a division of the body. We may say that 
the whole legislative power of the union is confided to sixty- 
two chambers. But we should then lose sight of the principle 
on which the division is made, as well as of the manner in 
which it operates. It would be correct to say, that in Sweden, 
the legislative body was distributed between four chambers. 
But in America, it is the power which is distributed. And 
although there are sixty-two chambers, yet these do not act co- 
ordinately, but each of the 31 legislative bodies exercises pow- 
ers which are distinct, and independent of those of the others. 

This disposition of the legislative power in America consti- 
tutes a deduction from the power which would otherwise be 
exercised by the national assembly. It erects still stronger 
and more numerous bars against the enterprises of the legis- 
lature, and these bars are all without, and not within the 
body. It does not merely balance power, it absolutely with- 
holds it. If the whole mass of authority which is wielded by 
the national and state legislatures were delegated to one as- 
sembly, all the other bulwarks of freedom would be under- 
mined. The political power of the community would be com- 
pletely centralized. The minds ot men would be distracted 
by the vast amount and the complex character of the business 
which would be transacted at a distance so far removed from 
their observation. Public affairs would become a great mys- 
tery, and whenever that is the case, government is in a fair 
way of acquiring inordinate power. But under the present 
admirable arrangement, public business, like all other knowl- 
edge, is classified and distributed, so as on the one hand to 
protect usurpation, and on the other, to secure an orderly ad- 
ministration in every part of society. 

A republic has been defined to be a government of laws ; 
but as Bousseau has well remarked, a government may be 
one of laws, and yet be exceedingly imperfect in its construc- 
tion. It must one of equal laws, in order to fulfill the plan 
of republican government. Society has undoubtedly secured 
one great advantage, when public affairs are conducted upon 
some fixed and regular scheme, and where general rules are 
laid down for the government of individuals. This is better 
than to have everything dependent upon the arbitrary will 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FEEE INSTITUTIONS. 



311 



and caprice of a handful of public rulers. Moreover, when 
this first step is taken, better things are in prospect, and only 
wait a favorable opportunity to be introduced. But there may 
be the most orderly arrangement in a system of government; 
and yet the system may act very unequally upon different 
parts of society. The laws may set out, without taking it for 
granted that there is a radical and permanent distinction 
between different classes of society; and when this is the 
case, the whole course of the subsequent legislation will be 
directed to uphold this distinction. In nearly all the Euro- 
pean states, the executive is a hereditary magistrate, and the 
legislative body, or one chamber at least, is composed of the 
nobility. That this should be so, is in those communities, re- 
garded as among the most settled principles of wise govern- 
ment. If the laws did not originate the system, they every- 
where confirm and support it. These communities may be 
said to be governments of laws. All public business is con- 
ducted with great precision and regularity. But this does 
not prevent the system. from bearing with immense inequality 
upon different parts of society. The influence which such a 
scheme of government exerts, is not always direct; it may 
operate circuitously through many subordinate channels ; but 
still affecting materially the manners, and consequently the 
character, of the legislation. Thus in Great Britain, where 
the nobility are a small fraction of the population, when com- 
pared with the middle class, parliament, in no act of ordinary 
legislation, ever avows the design of making a formal dis- 
tinction between the two. But the influence and power of 
the former are upheld in a great variety of ways, by an over- 
grown church establishment, by the creation of monopolies, 
by the structure even of the house of commons, which admits 
persons principally who belong to the class of gentry, and who 
are therefore more or less connected with the aristocracy 
proper. All this inspires a general taste for aristocratic dis- 
tinctions, long after the nobility have ceased to appropriate 
to themselves one-half of the power and property of the com- 
munity. The government of France is one of laws, but the 
house of deputies only possess one-third of the legislative 
power, and represents only two hundred thousand persons, in 
a population of thirty-five millions. 



312 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II 



There is another difficulty which meets us: although the 
laws do not accord any fixed immunities to one class, there 
will still exist great inequality in the conditions of the cit- 
izens. The same laws, applied to all, will operate unequally 
upon some. A tax proportioned to the income of individuals, 
may reduce some to poverty, while it leaves others in afflu- 
ence. The state invites all the citizens to enter the halls of 
legislation, or to fill other important posts. Accidental cir- 
cumstances, natural infirmity of mind or body, or some other 
of the disadvantages of fortune, may prevent numbers from 
profiting of the invitation, while it will conduct others to 
wealth and distinction. We may alleviate, if we cannot cure, 
the defects of the first kind ; we may take care that taxation 
shall never bear with inordinate weight upon the poor. But 
there is no way of rectifying the last species of imperfection, 
if an inequality which is stamped upon all created beings can 
be called an imperfection. But government has no right to 
exaggerate the inequalities which actually exist among men, 
and to create distinctions which would not otherwise take 
place. All men are not born equal, but all men are born with 
an equal title to become so; and government has no right to 
throw impediments in the way of making that title good. 
The high standard of popular intelligence in the United 
States is not owing to education alone. It is in great part 
ascribable to the absence of that mighty weight which presses 
upon the faculties of men in the middle walks of life, when 
they live in a state in which aristocratic distinctions lie at the 
foundation of the government. 

The government of the United States comes as near the 
idea of a government of equal laws, as any we dare expect to 
see. The laws are made by the people, and they are conse- 
quently made for the people. There may be great difference 
in the legislation of two countries, although the laws are the 
same in both. For instance : laws which are designed to pro- 
tect property, affect but a small proportion of the population 
where property is monopolized by a few, as is the case in Rus- 
sia and Poland, as was the case in France before the revolu- 
tion, when nearly three-fourths of the land was appropriated 
by the clergy and nobility. Something of the same kind may 
be observed in countries much more enlightened than Bussia 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



313 



or Poland. For instance : the law of perpetual entail exists 
in Scotland and Germany ; so that in the former much more 
than one-third of the land is tied up for ever ; the wholesome 
restraint which the English courts have imposed upon English 
estates being unknown. Scotland is under a government of laws, 
but those who are protected by the laws, are a privileged 
class. 

This constitutes a leading distinction between the legisla- 
tion of the United States and other countries. The Americans 
commenced where other communities will probably leave off. 
Property is more equally distributed than anywhere else. The 
laws, from the necessity of the case, are obliged to be more 
equal than anywhere else. But this lays the foundation for 
more important changes in their character. They will become 
more enlightened, less incumbered with subtle and unmean- 
ing fictions, because they will acquire a greater degree of sim- 
plicity ; and they will have this simplicity, because being en- 
acted by the people, they will be more thoroughly adapted 
both to their wants and their comprehension. 

Thus, although America derived the elements of its juris- 
prudence from England, material changes have been made, 
especially during the last thirty or forty years. And when, in 
1828, the British parliament entered upon the great work of 
reforming the civil code, the laws of the American states fur- 
nished the pattern after which it was obliged to copy. In the 
laws of one or other of the American states, are to be found 
almost every material improvement which has been made, and 
a still greater number which may have been advantageously 
inserted in the new c*ode. 

The criminal codes of the American states are stamped with 
the same distinguishing feature as the civil. The two go 
hand in hand, because the subject-matter of both is closely 
connected. The temptations to violate the rights of property 
are increased, in proportion as property is confined to a few. 
And thus this new result will take place, that in a country 
where nearly every one is interested in the acquisition and 
secure possession of property, the laws will be more humane 
than in those where property is distributed to a few. 

As to the mode of proposing the laws to the legislative 
body for its adoption, this has been very different in differ- 



314 



NATTJRE'AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



ent countries, and in the same country, at different times. 
In the European states, formerly, the executive possessed the 
exclusive privilege of propounding what laws were proper to 
be enacted. The manner in which the initiatory step is now 
taken in some of those states, indicates a very great change 
in the relative authority of the two departments. The power 
of proposing the laws, when vested exclusively in the execu- 
tive, gives him complete command over the motions of the 
legislature. This body was at one time regarded as a mere ap- 
pendage to the executive. The last was in reality the su- 
preme legislative tribunal. In course of time this apparently 
slight change took place. ¥he legislature addressed the king 
in the form of petition, as to what law they wished to be 
passed. This gave4;he former a more active part in their for- 
mation ; but still fell very short of the appropriate office of a 
legislative assembly. The executive was still regarded as the 
ultimate arbiter of all public measures. In England, a further 
change took place. Bills were drawn up in general terms, and 
the judges performed the task of framing them into laws. But 
this was not done until the session of parliament was closed ; 
a strange practice, it we did not know that all human institu- 
tions, in their immature state, wear a strange and uncouth 
character. The judges at that period were dependent on the 
king, and the shape given to the laws was not always what 
was intended. This practice indicated very clearly, however, 
that something like system and regularity was beginning to 
be introduced into the transaction of business. It was the 
forerunner of still more salutary changes. Accordingly, in no 
very long time, parliament asserted the exclusive right of 
originating and framing the laws. The legislature then began 
to assume the character of an independent body. The pre- 
rogative of the king was transformed into a negative upon 
the laws, after they had passed through the two houses, in- 
stead of being exercised at the first stage of the proceedings. 

A similar change has been brought about in the French gov- 
ernment. The right of the king to propose the laws, which was 
retained in the 14 charte" of 1814, is abolished by that of 1S30, 
and the power may be exercised indifferently by the king, the 
chamber of peers, or the chamber of deputies. But it is not 
so in the constitution of Holland, or Belgium, though in so 



chap, vii ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



315 



many respects they are copied after the English model, and 
underwent a revolution in the same year that the new provi- 
sion was iuserted in the French constituton. 

In the United States this power of initiating the laws could 
at no period be exercised by the executive : for the legislative 
power, both in the national and state governments, is vested 
solely in the general assembly of each. The privilege which 
is conferred upon the president and governors, of suggesting 
such changes as they may deem beneficial, is of a totally dif- 
ferent character from the power of propounding the laws as it 
is understood in European language. 

There are two customs which exist in the French and Eng- 
lish governments, which may be regarded as relics of the an- 
cient prerogatives of the executive. The one is the speech 
made from the throne, at the annual meeting of the legisla- 
ture ; the other consists of the right which ministers have to 
seats in that body, either " de jure," as ministers, as in France, 
or by virtue of an election, as in Great Britain. Wherever 
the executive is a hereditary magistrate, the last is an exceed- 
ingly advantageous arrangement, because it brings him within 
the reach of the legislature, and subjects him to the immediate 
action of public opinion. The theory of the constitution places 
him beyond it ; the practice draws him insensibly within the 
circle of its influence. But the speech which is made at the 
opening of the legislative body is a wise regulation, whether 
the executive is an hereditary, or an elective magistrate. 

When we read the instructive and business-like communica- 
tions of the president to congress, and of the governors to the 
state legislatures, the observation that they are the broken 
relics of a formidable prerogative of kingly power may appear 
to be new ; yet such is undoubtedly the case. The American cus- 
tom, however, is of unmixed benefit to the community. Some 
centuries hence, another Montesquieu, or Millar, will set about 
exploring American institutions, which will then acquire addi- 
tional interest, from being covered with the rust of antiquity, 
and in poring over the history of the country, will fasten upon 
very many things as worthy of deep attention and study, 
which, in consequence of their familiarity, elude the observa- 
tion of Americans at the present day. Existing institutions 
are often more difficult to decipher and thoroughly understand, 



316 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



than those of a remote age. They are mixed up with so much 
which is apparantly familiar, and with so much which is really 
extraneous, that it demands a severe and comprehensive analy- 
sis, to disentangle the last, and to give to the former their 
just place. But when institutions grow old, things which 
were once familiar become striking facts, and whatever was 
extraneous has dropped off and fallen into oblivion ; so 
that time operates the same analysis with regard to an ancient 
system of government, which it requires the utmost thought 
and reflection to effect in relation to an existing one. 

The custom of sending to the legislature a communication, 
containing a clear account of the state of public affairs, not 
only maintains friendly relations between the two depart- 
ments; it tests the capacity of the chief magistrate, and 
makes it his ambition to obtain exact information of every- 
thing which affects the condition and future prospects of the 
community over which he presides. The more the minds of 
public men are turned in this direction, the less the danger of 
their meditating schemes unfavorable to the general weal. 
And doubtless one reason why America has enjoyed such un- 
exampled tranquillity, is that the administration of public 
affairs has assumed a thoroughly business-like character. 
Men of the finest understanding have been repeatedly gov- 
ernors of the states : Jefferson and M'Kean, Griswold and 
Clinton, M'Duffie and Everett, without mentioning many 
others who belong to the same cla^s. If these men had been 
nurtured under a Spanish, or a Portuguese government, or in 
an Italian republic, their minds would have been subjected to 
a discipline the most unfavorable imaginable, and their pub- 
lic conduct would have taken a totally different direction. 
When in reading American history, one comes across such a 
character as Aaron Burr, it seems as if we had encountered a 
being who properly belonged to another sphere. He also pos- 
sessed faculties of a high order, but he stands alone in one 
respect: he appears never to have realized, what all other 
Americans find it impossible to forget, that he was born and 
educated in a country of free institutions. He seems to be a 
man of Venice, or Genoa, rather than one of New York. 

The communities in which the executive messages are most 
full and comprehensive, are the very ones which posses most 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



317 



liberty, so much has the custom deviated from the institu- 
tion out of which it sprung. In monarchical states, where we 
might expect the executive to dictate minutely what should be 
done, he says little or nothing. And in a republic, where from 
his authority being exceeding limited, we might expect him 
to say very little, he traverses the whole field of inquiry, 
and appears to feel as deep an interest as if the state were 
his property, and the people his subjects. Nothing can be 
more jejune than a king's message, while few documents 
are more instructive and satisfactory, than the messages of 
the American president and governors. The king fears to 
show himself upon an arena where he would find so many pri- 
vate citizens his superiors. A few words are sometimes un- 
derstood to be a sign of wisdom, and with kings it becomes 
an universal maxim that they are so. 

The establishment of a written constitution necessarily in- 
troduces a great change in the character and functions of 
the legislative body. The effect is to create a division of the 
legislative power between the people and the ordinary legisla- 
tive assembly : another contrivance much more efficacious 
than the distribution of the last into two chambers. The 
people exercise their share of authority when assembled in 
convention ; they ordain fundamental rules for the govern- 
ment of all the, departments ; or when collected at the polls, 
they ratify or reject proposed alterations in the existing consti- 
tution. Sometimes a constitutional charter adds to the powers 
of the legislative body, but in a great majority of instances, 
it diminishes them. In the former case, it would perhaps be 
correct to say, that there was a displacement, or new arrange- 
ment, of the powers of the ordinary legislative body. Thus, 
iu a republic, the authority to declare war is delegated to this 
assembly, but it has been taken from the executive. The 
same amount of legislative power as before may be delegated, 
but a very important part is wrested from one department, 
in order to be deposited with another. 

But it is more important at present to notice those powers 
which are entirely withdrawn from the legislative assembly, 
and retained by the people. The freedom of religion and of 
the press, the organization of the political departments, trial 
by jury, the qualifications of electors, and of candidates, for 



318 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



office, are a few of them. The legislature can 110 longer inter- 
meddle with these matters, though the people in convention 
may make what disposition they please in regard to them. 
The noblest efforts have been made in France to introduce 
constitutional liberty. But the liberties of no people can rest 
upon a solid foundation, unless the constitution is the work of 
their own hands. The revolution of 1830, was occasioned by 
the daring interference of the king with the freedom of the 
press, and the law of elections: matter which should be care- 
fully lqcked up by the constitution. The most exciting con- 
troversies, those which have caused nearly all the insurrections 
which have taken place, are precisely those which a popular 
constitution withdraws from the cognizance of a legislative 
assembly. A constitutional ordiuauce severs, if I may so say, 
the conventional from the legislative power. It marks out 
a limited field for the exercise of the last. The temptation and 
the ability to usurp power are not absolutely diminished, but 
they are greatly repr essed. 

There is another division of the laws, into those which re- 
late to the manners, and those which have a direct reference 
to the rights of persons and property. In the first rudiments 
of society, a code of jurisprudence is very apt to touch ex- 
tensively upon manners. The community then bears a strong 
resemblance to the family, and the government to the govern- 
ment of a family. The progress of society produces the same 
change in the laws, which a knowledge of the world produces 
in the character of individuals. It enlarges the field of obser- 
vation and inquiry, and j)laces in an insignificant light many 
actions to which the utmost importance was attached. All 
laws are the result of a process of generalization. But when 
the community has grown from a city, or an inconsiderable 
territory, to an extensive and populous state,, it becomes im- 
possible to regulate private manners minutely, and yet to pre- 
serve the system of generalization. The codes of some of the 
Germanic tribes, the Franks, and the Bungundians, interfered 
extensively with the manners. The blue laws of Connecticut 
are also a remarkable example of the same species of legisla- 
tion, though it is a great mistake to suppose that laws of that 
character were confined to that province. Similar regulations, 
only not so numerous, nor carried to so great an extent, were 
adopted in others. They were not even confined to the north- 



chap, vil] OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



319 



ern provinces, but were in force in some of the southern also. 

Sumptuary laws were very common among the ancient com- 
monwealths. They even lay at the foundation of the govern- 
ment of Sparta. But Sparta was smaller than a moderate 
sized American county, and this system of legislation gradu- 
ally gave way, after intercouse with the other Grecian states 
had produced a higher civilization, and given rise to more lib- 
eral modes of thinking. 

The Oppian law enacted at Rome was one of the most re- 
markable of this class of laws. It imposed severe restrictions 
upon the dress of females, forbade ornamental apparel ; and 
the legislature, which convened for the purpose of deliberat- 
ing whether it should be continued in force, drew around the 
Roman forum a mob of women, as formidable as the band of 
meu which in 1780, collected under the banner of Lord George 
Gorgon, to intimidate the British parliament. The city of 
Rome, however, was the real Roman commonwealth : the 
Italian provinces occupied the place of dependencies, rather 
than integral parts of one state. 

But the list of such laws after all was not very extensive. 
It would have been an endless task to legislate for the man- 
ners and morals of the people. As positive regulations could 
not reach them, the matter was left to the discretion of the 
censor. But what the laws have not power to do, it is plain 
no individual will attempt, and this part of the duty of the 
censor was net very strictly performed. 

It is sometimes difficult to draw a distinct line between the 
two classes of actions to which I have referred. Life, liberty, 
and property, are the subjects which the laws principally deal 
with f Yet in some highly civilized countries, duelling has not 
always been punished ; the reason of which is, that the man- 
] ners have been too strong for the laws. In some countries 
men fight in obedience to the manners; in others, they abstain 
from fighting, also in obedience to the manners. As the punish- 
ment of death has no terror for the man, who in order to escape 
death, seizes the last plank in a shipwreck from a weaker 
mau, so it has no terror for the man who pursuades himself 
that even an imaginary disgrace is more intolerable than 
death. But duelling is a relic of aristocratic institutions. It 
follows, therefore, that in proportion as the principle of equal- 



320 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



ity gains ground, and becomes thoroughly incorporated with 
the fashion of thinking, the custom will disappear. The man- 
ners are then made to correct the manners. Equality has a 
wonderful influence in laughing out of couutenance all fanci- 
ful notions. It is absurd to expose our own lives, when a 
grievous injury has been done to us. It is worse than absurd, 
when we have only been affronted. I observe that in the 
southeastern states, where the principle of equality has gained 
ground so fast, and where in consequence the minds of men 
have been driven to reflection, the custom is falling into dis- 
repute. 

Some governments permit theatrical entertainments, while 
others prohibit them altogether. The legislature of Connecti- 
cut has resisted every effort to introduce them. Although 
these exhibitions, in some repects afford an innocent and even 
noble recreation, yet the sum of their influence is deemed as 
pernicious as any of those actions which immediately affect 
the persons or reputation of others. New Haven is as large 
as New York was in 1776, when the latter had a regular 
theatrical corps. But if it were as large as New York now is, 
or as large as Boston, it may be doubted whether the legisla- 
ture would be enabled to persevere in its excellent intentions. 
The creation of domestic governments in the United States 
has this advantage : it enables particular sections of the coun- 
try to adapt the laws to the manners, instead of being in- 
volved in the consequences of one general and sweeping sys- 
tem of legislation. 

If the inquiry should still be pressed : why do legislators, 
for the most part, confine their attentions to those actions 
which immediately affect life, liberty, ami property, and leave 
untouched a very large class of others, which have a very im- 
portant, although it may be an indirect, bearing upon the 
public happiness'? tlie following observations may be made, in 
addition to those which have been already suggested : 

If there were no la ws, actions which are now visited with a 
penalty would not go u it punished. The great benefit arising 
from a regular code of 'laws, and a corresponding system of 
procedure, c( nsists in the restraint which these impose upon 
private revenge. For this would then pass all bouuds, and 
punish too much. The influence of the laws is such, that it 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



321 



substitutes reflection in the place of passion. And with re- 
gard to those actions which affect others indirectly, but do not 
assume any tangible shape, although the laws do abstain from 
punishing them, jet they are most certainly punished. But 
inasmuch as the punishment is applied to a different class of 
actions, it assumes a different character. Acts of violence 
were before followed with violence ; and vices in the manners 
are followed by a countervailing influence of the manners. 
Hatred, envy, and ingratitude, are exceedingly prejudicial to 
public as well as to private happiness ; and they are visited in 
private life with a penalty as certain as that which the law 
inflicts upon delinquencies of a graver kind. The state under- 
takes to punish these, because individuals would exceed all 
bounds, if punishment were left to them. And it abstains 
from noticing the former, because it could neither rjunish so 
generally, nor so judiciously, as when the punishment is left 
to the silent, but searching operation of opinion. Murder and 
robbery are very far from being driven from society by the 
severest laws, but they are rendered much less frequent than 
they would otherwise be. So, although the worst passions 
still infest society, yet without the punishment which now 
constantly attends them, the most civilized community would 
be turned into a pandemonium. 

I cannot leave this subject without noticing a species of 
legislation which has lately made its appearance in some of 
the American states, and which has in a remarkable manner 
arrested public attention, both at home and abroad. I allude 
to the license laws ; laws which are intended, if possible, to 
extirpate the use of intoxicating liquors. These seem to par- 
take of the character of sumptuary regulations, and therefore 
to be an interference with subjects which are properly with- 
drawn from the care of the civil magistrate. But I hold that 
they constitute an exception to the rule. 

It was not until public attention was particularly drawn to 
this matter, that any one was aware to how great an extent 
the commission of crimes was to be traced to the use of spirit- 
ous liquors. Still less did persons of even considerable reflec- 
tion form any conception of the influence which the practice 
of moderate drinking, as it is termed, has in confusing the 
judgment, blunting the moral sense, and souring the temper. 



322 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



But it is evident, that a vast portion of misconduct, want of 
judgment, feeble, irresolute, and contradictory actions, which 
were supposed to be unaccountable, and were not regarded as 
of great importance, are attributable to this cause, and have 
shed a most baneful influence upon society. This is a matter, 
therefore, which, even if it wholly concerned the manners, has 
an importance which belongs to no other of a similar class. 
And the efforts which have been made by the people of New 
England, Tennessee, and New York, are symptoms of an ex 
ceedingly sound state of public opinion. It is because the 
people have themselves taken this matter into consideration, 
that it possesses so much importance. In some countries, 
legislation by the people suggests the notion of licentiousness, 
of a predatory spirit. Here is a remarkable example, the most 
remarkable I am aware of, to the contrary. Without the co- 
operation of the people, it would be a herculean task to lift 
•the popular mind ; but with their co-operation everything 
good and useful may be accomplished. If the laws which 
have been passed in some of these states should remain unre- 
pealed, they will be a lasting monument of the wisdom and 
virtue of the people. I am inclined to think that they will 
constitute the most memorable example of legislation of which 
we have any record, not so much in consequence of their 
widely salutary influence, as because they argue a degree of 
self-denial and reflection which no one before supposed to be- 
long to the masses. Let no European after this indulge in the 
fanciful notion, that the people are incapable of self-govern- 
ment. As a single act, it is the most marked proof of a ca- 
pacity for self-government of which I have any knowledge. 

Nor would it materially weaken the force of the reasoning, 
if these laws were repealed. That they have been proposed 
by the popular mind, that they have enlisted a powerful and 
numerous class in their favor, is decisive of the soundness of 
public opinion. If two millions and a half of people hold opin 
ions which are eminently favorable to morality and good gov- 
ernment, and three millions hold opposite ones, the influence 
of the first will be felt beyond all comparison, before that of 
the last. It would afford matter for curious and instructive 
inquiry, if we could ascertain the exact influence which gov- 
ernment and the laws on the one hand, and the manners and 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



323 



habits of a people on the other, exercise respectively on society. 
The laws are the offspring of the manners, and yet when the 
former are fairly established, and have acquired authority from 
long usage, they exert a distinct and additional influence upon 
society. 

1st. If there were no government and laws, there would be 
a voluntary association, or associations, similar to those vol- 
untary conventions and societies which now spring up in the 
community, and which are employed in diffusing information 
relative to public affairs. But admitting that a large propor- 
tion of the population would be disposed to fall in with every 
measure which reason and good sense suggested, there would 
always be a number who would not be so disposed. Even if 
all assented at first, there would be numerous instances of dis- 
obedience, when those measures were to be carried into execu- 
tion. The disturber of the public peace, the flagrant violator 
of private rights, would claim an exemption, on the ground 
that the resolves of the association were not laws, had no 
authoritative sanction, and the exercise' of private judgment 
on the part of some would be as effectual in* annulling, as the 
exercise of the same judgment on the part of others in main- 
taining them. So far, then, as one, and that a considerable 
portion of society was concerned, laws, that is coercive enact- 
ments, would be indispensable to the peace of society. 

2d. But there are an infinity of other questions which would 
arise in every extensive community, besides those which bear 
directly upon the public tranquillity. Dissent, with regard to 
these, would be very common, even among those who were 
agreed as to the necessity of fixed rules in respect to the last- 
There would then be no system of measures; everything would 
be thrown into confusion; the sense of a common interest, 
which might be sufficient to uphold the former, would operate 
in a contrary direction with regard to the latter. The total 
want of authority in carrying into effect the civil regulations 
of the association, would undermine its authority iu executing 
the criminal resolves Infractors of public and private rights, 
perceiving the confusion which existed in one part of society, 
would acquire boldness and activity in the perpetration of their 
deeds. The other part of society would lose confidence in their 
authority, simply because they were conscious of a disobedi- 



324 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



ence on their own part, to measures, not of the same sort, but 
originating in precisely the same species of authority. Civil 
government, then, has a two fold influence— 1st, in controlling 
the population ; and, 2d, in controlling those who undertake to 
govern. Society could not exist without coercive enactments 
to prevent crimes, and the authority which the laws acquire 
in restraining these, is very naturally transferred to all the 
political and civil regulations of the community, and thus 
carries one principle of obedience through all ranks of society. 
We see frequent opposition to every species of civil enactment', 
and very little to the laws which punish crimes. The first are 
intended to guard the rights of the highest, as well as the 
lowest classes ; the second are made especially to restrain the 
lowest. But the society is compelled to arm the first with the 
same authority as accompanies the last; otherwise the princi- 
ple of obedience would be weakened at its source. The man- 
ners, the rules of conventional conduct, would be sufficient to 
prompt to the prohibition of very many acts, but they would 
be powerless in executing the wishes of the society, and 
equally powerless in commanding, or forbidding others to be 
done. Men are thus irresistibly led from society to govern- 
ment : the manners and the laws act reciprocally upon each 
other, and in the progress of time, the two are so intimately 
blended, that it is impossible to distinguish the exact influence 
which each exercises in molding the habits and conduct of in- 
dividuals. 

3d. It is in this way that the rule of the majority, a rule in- 
dispensable to the existence and well-being of society, comes 
to be firmly established. The majority cannot win the minor- 
ity to obedience to the laws, unless they also obey them. In 
numberless instances, individuals among the majority would 
desire to escape from the operation of the laws, but they can- 
not do so without breaking the bond which runs through the 
whole of society. They are compelled to adhere to the great 
principle of obedience, in order to maintain their own authority. 
They might command the physical force of society, but phys- 
ical force is impotent when it is not accompanied with the 
opinion of right. This opinion, or sense of right, is like the 
self-possession and resolution of a small man, which make him 
an overmatch for a strong man who does not possess those 



CHAP. VII.] 



OP FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



325 



qualities. Moreover, so many among the majority would be 
inclined to escape from the enactment of the laws (the poor, 
for instance, from the payment of taxes), that the majority 
would dwindle into a minority: universal disobedience to a 
great part of the civil enactment would take place, and the 
criminal laws, having no sanction, would also be trampled 
under foot. The manners and the laws again act mutually, 
the one upon the other ; the maintenance of great principles 
is discovered to be identical with self-interest. The first, as be- 
ing better defined and more easily appreciated, is laid hold of as 
of immutable obligation, and the sense of interest is ultimately 
swallowed up in the sense of justice. Every law carries with 
it a title to be obeyed, because one law contains as full an an- 
nunciation of a great principle, as all the laws combined, and 
to deny the authority of one, is to deny the authority of all. 
By multiplying the laws, we only multiply the application of 
a principle, but we cannot multiply a principle, for that is in- 
divisible. 

4th. The laws are a reflection of the manners. The manners 
give birth to the laws, but when the manners are incorporated 
in the laws, they acquire great additional authority. Legal 
enactments reduce to unity the great diversity of opinions 
which exist, and relieve the mind from the irksome task of 
perpetually inquiring into the reason of the laws. The value 
of the principle consists in this, that a great majority of the 
citizens are instinctively and habitually led to regard the law 
as the supreme rule of conduct. After a system of laws is 
established, the manners cannot be preserved, unless there is 
an adherence to the laws : the manners then become the pow- 
erful ally of the civil magistrate, and public order and tran- 
quillity are ensured. 

5th. The wider the influence of the manners, the wider will 
be the influence of the laws : that is, the greater the number 
of people who will contribute to the formation of what we 
term public opinion, the stronger will be the authority of the 
government. Whenever, then, it is in our power to mold the 
institutions on the democratic model, the standard of both 
laws and manners will be elevated. In a democratic republic, 
the manners have necessarily a more extensive influence than 
in any other form of government. Public opinion, therefore, 



326 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



has a more direct influence upon the execution as well as upon 
the formation of the laws. In most countries, the laws are 
devised by the few. The opinions of the many and few are 
thus placed in an antagonist relation to each other. In Eng- 
land, and Scotland, the manners have infinitely more influence 
in shaping the laws than in Spain and Portugal. English in- 
stitutions contain a stronger infusion of republican notions, 
and the laws are infinitely better obeyed than in Spain and 
Portugal. In the United States, the spirit of obedience is 
still stronger, as is shown by the fact that no standing mili- 
tary force has ever been kept up. But, as a general rule, the 
laws are somewhat in advance of public opinion. The wider 
the sphere of their influence, therefore, the more powerfully 
will they act upon their manners, and the manners will be ren- 
dered more and more auxiliary to the execution of the laws. 

6th. Constitutions and laws, then, are not mere parchment 
barriers. The instances in which they are violated, are to 
those in which they are obeyed, as one to ten thousand. But 
the reason why this is so deserves particular consideration. 
As a general rule, the constitution and laws are obeyed, be- 
cause it is felt to be right that they should be. But this opin- 
ion of right derives great strength from the fact that each 
law, and each clause in a constitution, is the result of a men- 
tal analysis which has already been gone through with. He 
who can give us an analysis of his ideas, is listened to with 
more respect than he who can give us only his loose thoughts. 
But singular as it may appear, the great majority of mankind 
are even more affected with the result of an analysis, than 
with the analysis itself. It wears a more imposing character, 
1st, because it presents them with the idea in a form too large 
for their apprehension. They are unable to comprehend the 
analysis, while at the same time they possess sufficient dis- 
cernment to perceive that the end it leads to, is the result of a 
mental operation. 2d. A constitution and code of laws, are 
each a system of rules, and all men, the learned as well as the 
unlearned, are wonderfully affected with this notion of system. 
Each article in the one, and each enactment in the other, flows 
from some common principle; each part lends a sanction to 
every part, so that the sum total of authority which is pos- 
sessed by the whole, is greater than that of the parts. The 



CIIAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



327 



constitution and the laws are, for the most part, an imperson- 
ation of the manners, and yet they acquire an authority so 
totally distinct from the manners, that to speak of the two as 
identical, would appear to the common mind a violation of the 
rules of good sense. 

7th. The co operation of the laws and the manners is, then, 
evident. But there are a great number of instances in which 
the laws have a peculiar efficacy in giving a direction to the 
manners. It is sometimes even necessary to force a law, in 
order to bring about a given result. The first law which laid 
the foundation of the system of internal improvement in New 
York, the grand canal, was carried through the legislature by 
storm. The enactment ot some laws is vehemently resisted 
for a long time, although the public opinion is in favor of 
them. The manifestation of public opinion is not clear and 
decisive, until they are actually passed: they then show a title 
to obedience, as well as to respect. The desired reform becomes 
more instead of less popular. It then represents a definite 
number of people who derive support from a mutual sym- 
pathy, and who, through the medium of the same principle of 
sympathy, gradually impart their opinions to a still wider 
number. If any of the American states succeed in abolishing 
the traffic in spirituous liquors, it will be on this principle. 
At first public opinion is only half muttered ; its expression is 
only found in detached masses of men, although the aggregate 
of opinions of these masses would represent a decided major- 
ity. The law combines them, gives unity to the opinions of 
all, and the authoritative sanction thus afforded to them se-. 
cures the triumph of the reform. At a first step toward bring- 
ing the Russians within the pale of civilized Europe, Peter I. 
made an ordinance prohibiting them from wearing their beards. 
In no very long time the disuse of the custom became not only 
popular but fashionable. There was great opposition in France, 
and many of the American states to the repeal of the law of 
primogeniture. In the last, the law has so eutirely molded the 
manners and set the fashion, that even devises which are un- 
restrained follow the rule of equal partibility. In France the 
same effect would follow, if the law had not controlled devises 
as well as regulated the course of descent. 
Sth. The institutions of a country not only ought to be, but 



32S 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book ii. 



they necessarily are in advance -of the popular intelligence. 
1st. They must be so, because they are the work of the 
more intelligent class of the community, even where intelli- 
gence is widely diffused. A constitution of government, a 
code of jurisprudence, institutions for the education of the 
people, etc., all demand information, together with powers of 
analysis and generalization, to which the commou mind is in- 
competent. 2d. They ought to be lifted above the common 
run of opinions for the same reason. The intelligence dis- 
played in those various institutions, taking advantage of the 
capacity for improvement among the common people, and pre- 
senting constantly to the view some permanent standard of 
action, pushes them forward, stimulates them to thought and 
reflection, and induces habits of conduct every way superior 
to what they would otherwise have attained. 

The civil and political institutions, nevertheless, represent 
all classes. They represent the more enlightened, because they 
are the work of their hands; they represent all other classes, 
because they are designed to regulate their conduct toward 
each other and toward the government. They contain what 
they desire they should contain, although they are unable to 
give account to themselves of the manner in which the task 
has been performed. And if a fraction only of the three mil- 
lions entertain different opinions, the majority agreeing with 
the two millions and a half, and only hesitating as to the ex- 
pediency of positive legislation, we make sure of one of two 
things, that such laws will be passed at some future day, or 
that public opinion will be so searching and so powerful in its 
operation, that they will be unnecessary. 

There are a multitude of subjects on which the legislative 
power maj' be exercised, which it would be unprofitable to 
recount in detail. Some of these will be more particularly 
noticed under distinct heads. The important modification 
which this department undergoes, in consequence of the exist- 
ence of a written constitution, the abolition of a chamber of 
nobility, and the distribution of the power between a national 
and local legislatures, are things which it is of most conse- 
quence to keep in view. When the operation and influence of 
these are fairly grasped, it will be easy to understand the char- 
acter and functions of the legislature in a country of free in- 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



329 



stitutions, whether the form of government is that of a simple, 
or a confederate, republic. 

For instance: what a variety of subjects are withdrawn 
from the national legislature in America, in consequence of 
the existence of the state governments. This plan is attended 
with two important advantages. It alters the whole character 
of legislation. The domestic affairs of the population, which 
outweigh in number and importance all others, become the 
subject of chief importance, while at the same time more judg- 
ment and skill are devoted to those interests than could be 
the case, if they were all superintended by a central govern- 
ment. In the second place, the immense deduction which is 
made from the power of the national legislature, prevents its 
being brought in perpetual collision with popular rights. As 
the whole amount of public business, which is transacted in a 
country of free institutions, is incomparably greater than in 
any other, the danger of introducing a complete system of 
centralization would also be greater, if the legislative author- 
ity were not distributed among two classes of government. 

At one time it was believed in America, that the power to 
make internal improvements, not merely military and post 
roads, but every other kind of roads and canals, might well 
be exercised by congress. The power was regarded as a sort 
of paternal authority which would be engaged in dispensing 
benefits to the whole population, and from which therefore no 
political evil need be apprehended. But reflecting and clear- 
sighted statesmen thought they could discern, behind this pa- 
ternal authority, the germ of a power which, if it were per- 
mitted to take root and spread, would give rise to a system of 
centralization which would fritter away the authority of the 
states, and therefore be detrimental to popular freedom. They 
therefore opposed the exercise of the power, even where the 
state consented ; and very consistently, for consent cannot 
give jurisdiction. A state cannot surrender a power to the 
federal government which the constitution has withheld. To 
do so would be to disarrange the whole system, and to alter 
the balance between the national and state governments. The 
school whence those opinions emanated was at one time deri- 
sively termed the Virginia school of politics ; but with great 
injustice, for these opinions have been productive of unspeak- 



330 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



able blessings to the American people. It should rather be 
denominated the American school of politics, as it is a genu- 
ine representation of the mode of thinking, which should be 
familiar to every one in a country of free institutions. All 
experience shows that there is more danger from a too lax, 
than from a too strict, construction of the constitution. 

Every one may have read the interesting and graphic de- 
scription of the solemn mission which was deputed by New 
York to Washington City, for the purpose of engaging the 
general government to embark in those public improvements 
which the state has itself executed in much less time, and 
with so much more skill and judgment, than if they had been 
left to a central government. The state distrusted its own 
ability to construct these works. This was one motive. An- 
other probably was, that it would avoid the responsibility of 
laying the taxes necessary to defray the expense. But the 
mission to Washington met with an insurmountable obstacle. 
The federal government at that time was administered under 
the auspices of that Virginia school of politics to which I 
have referred: and for the first time in the history of nations, 
a government was found which openly avowed that it was un- 
willing to augment its own power. Fortunate result, in every 
aspect in which it can be viewed. The states have escaped a 
system of centralization, which would inevitably have im- 
paired their just authority; and the great state, which first 
projected the plan of internal improvements on a broad scale, 
has succeeded beyond all expectation, in the execution of its 
gigantic works. The series of years of unparalleled activity 
in every department of industry which followed, has gradu- 
ally enlisted every other state in the same scheme; and diffi- 
culties, which' seemed too great for the resources of any single 
state, have been easily overcome by all. 

This is one among many instances, of the advantages re- 
sulting from a division of the legislative power, between a 
national and local legislatures. 

A striking example of the effect which a popular constitu- 
tion has in altering the character of the legislation, is afforded 
by the disposition which has been made of the war-making 
power in the American government. It has been taken from 
the executive, and confided to the legislature alone. It is 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



331 



true that this arrangement may be adopted in a government 
where such a constitution is unknown. In Sweden, at one 
time, the states or diet had the exclusive power of declaring 
war. And at present they possess a veto upon the resolution 
of the king. But a popular constitution makes sure of 
abridging the power of the executive, and what is of still 
more consequence, it provides for the creation of a legislative 
body, which shall really, not nominally, represent the public 
will. The legislative power is the power to make laws, and 
the law which gives rise to a state of war is one of the most 
important which can be enacted. War was formerly made 
without any solemn declaration, and on this account, perhaps, 
the power was supposed to fall within the appropriate sphere 
of executive jurisdiction. Devolving the power upon repre- 
sentatives of the people is a step taken in favor of civiliza- 
tion, not merely in one nation, but among all nations. The 
power will be used with infinitely more caution. 44 War," 
says Mr. Burke, "never left a nation where it found it." It 
not only alters the relations between the belligerents ; it pro- 
duces the most serious changes in the internal condition of 
each. It annuls " ipso facto" some of the laws which were 
before of force ; it renders necessary the passage of new ones, 
affecting immediately the pursuits of private individuals, and 
very frequently entails the heaviest calamities upon all classes 
of society. The law of war, therefore, has been attributed to 
the executive, in consequence of that confusion between the 
functions of the different departments which always takes 
place in the early history of governments, and which, once 
established, it is so difficult to remove. 

It is true that in Great Britain and France the supplies are 
voted by the legislature, and the bill must originate in the 
chamber in which the deputies of the people sit. But this 
sometimes is a very inadequate security against the prosecution 
of wars of ambition. The structure of the government must 
conspire with the social organization to throw discredit upon 
such wars, and to put them entirely out of fashion. If the 
manners exercise a powerful influence upon government, so 
also does government exert a like influence upon the manners. 
A hereditary monarch and an order of nobility, necessarily pos- 
sess an amount of influence which cannot be measured by the 



332 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[bogk ii. 



mere formal authority with which they are invested. This in- 
fluence too generally begets tastes and habits incompatible 
with the maintenance of peace, as the permanent policy of 
the country. These will extend more or less over every part 
of society, and give tone to the deliberations of the popular 
branch. Although, therefore, the two states I have named, 
as well as Belgium and Holland, are better protected than 
other European communities against unjust and impolitic 
wars, in consequence of the steady and vigorous growth of a 
middle class, the protection is very far from being complete. 
The crown and aristocracy still wield a disproportioned influ- 
ence, and overshadow the deliberations of the more popular 
body, by contributing to prevent it from containing a genuine 
representation of that middle class. The only wise plan 
therefore, is to confide the war-making power to the legisla- 
ture, and to compose this body of representatives of the peo- 
ple. If this disposition of the power will not prevent repub- 
lics from waging unjust wars, it will at any rate render such 
wars much less frequent. 

In those governments where the popular representation is 
very slender, the right of petition is regarded by the people 
as one of the dearest they possess. In those where there is 
no popular branch of the legislature, it is the only means by 
which the people can cause themselves to be heard. In the 
democratic republic of the United States, this right has not 
the same use. The people have no need to petition a body 
which is created by themselves, and reflects their own opin- 
ions. Nevertheless, it is there considered more sacred, and is 
more extensively employed than in all other governments put 
together. And I am persuaded, that its importance is in- 
creased, instead of being diminished, in proportion as the 
institutions assume a popular character. In absolute mon- 
archies, such as Turkey and Kussia, the right is almost en- 
tirely confined to the redress of individual grievances. An 
obscure individual is permitted to carry his complaint to the 
foot of the throne, for this does not at all affect the solidly- 
established authority of the monarch. It only places that au- 
thority in bolder relief. But in a republic the right acquires 
a far more comprehensive character : it becomes an affair of 
large masses of men, who desire, in an authoritative but 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



333 



peaceable manner, to impress their opinions upon the govern- 
ing authority. The opinions of an individual may sometimes 
be treated lightly; the opinions of whole classes are always 
entitled to notice. They are often indications of the propriety 
of some change in the legislation, for which the majority will 
not be prepared until public opinion has been thoroughly 
sounded ; or they may denote some new movement in society 
which, whether for good or for evil, should have the fullest 
publicity, iu order to be appreciated at its real worth. The 
great current of thought, which is constantly bearing the 
mind forward, is quickened, or interrupted, by a great num- 
ber of lesser currents, whose depth and velocity must be 
measured, in order that we may determine our reckoning. 

Petitions in the United States are of various kinds. Some- 
times they contain the private claim of an individual upon 
the government. Sometimes they relate to the interests of 
agriculture, manufactures, and commerce. And in a few in- 
stances, they have been made to bear upon the political insti- 
tutions themselves. The memorials accompanying the second 
class of petitions have often displayed consummate research 
and ability, and have shed a flood of light upon the subjects 
they have handled. It would be endless to refer to all the in- 
stances in which these compositions have sustained this high 
character. Two may be mentioned as samples : the memorial 
of the chamber of commerce of Baltimore, on " the rule of 
175G," and the report accompanying the memorial of the 
merchants of Boston, in relation to the tariff; the first from 
the pen of William Pinckney, the second from that of Henry 
Lee. These papers are profound and elaborate disquisitions 
upon subjects which have greatly perplexed both American 
and European statesmen. 

As the legislature is immediately responsible to the people, 
it is of the utmost consequence that every channel of commu- 
nication should be opened -between the two. In this way, 
public opinion will exert a steady and salutary control upon 
public men ; and public men will endeavor to make themselves 
worthy of the trust confided to them, by the display of emi- 
nent ability, and the acquisition of information relative to the 
condition and interests of their state and country. In abso- 
lute government, the right of petition is an affair of individu- 



334 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



als only ; in a democratic republic, it is one means by which 
the government and the people are more closely bound to- 
gether, and the responsibility of the representatives rendered 
more strict. The views and opinions which prevail in differ- 
ent parts of an extensive community, are necessarily very va- 
rious; and the true way to reduce them to anything like uni- 
formity, is to give free vent to the opinions of all. Notwith- 
standing the exceeding diversity in the modes of thinking of 
individuals, we may lay it down as a safe general maxim, that 
they are all in search of one thing, truth: and the mutual ac- 
tion of mind upon mind, although it at first increases the 
sharp points in each one's character, ultimately brings all to a 
better agreement. It is one distinguishing feature of Ameri- 
can institutions, that the robust frame of the government per- 
mits it to wait the slow process through which opinions pass, 
without being at all incommoded ; whereas, most other gov- 
ernments too easily persuade themselves that opinion is nox- 
ious because it is new, and strive, therefore, by force or by in- 
fluence, to stifle it in its birth. As to the stated meeting 
of the legislative body, I am of opinion, that as a general 
rule, it should be annual. In seven of the American states, 
the session is biennial; but an annual meeting, accompan- 
ied with the limitation of the time during which it should 
sit, would be preferable. The indirect advantages which 
accrue from a political institution, are sometimes as important 
as the immediate end which is intended to be accomplished. 
Thus the appropriate office of a legislative assembly is to pass 
laws for the government of the community; but there are 
certain incidental benefits, growing out of the meeting of the 
body, which are of inestimable value. We stand in need of 
every help and device by which to promote the intellectual 
communication of different parts of the country or state. As 
is the general standard of intelligence, so will be the charac- 
ter of the assembly which emanates from the people. To 
frame enlightened laws, experience, judgment, and informa- 
tion, are all necessary. It is the necessity of exercising the 
understanding about the material interests of this world, 
which raises men so much above the condition of the brutes. 
I will therefore employ every means in my power to advance 
the standard of popular intelligence. The capital where the 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



335 



legislature sits, constitutes the center of information of the 
whole state. It may be a very imperfect contrivance, after 
all, for collecting the scattered rays of thought from abroad. 
The assembly may contaiu a great deal of ignorance, and a 
great deal of presumptuousness, but it very often contains a 
considerable amount of sterling ability and good sense. I 
think it will not be doubted, that if congress had been the 
sole legislative body in America, civilization and intellectual 
improvement of every kind, would not have made anything 
like the progress which they have during the last sixty years; 
so true is it, that an institution, which was originally designed 
to perform one office, often succeeds in performing many oth- 
ers equally important. 

The capital is the focus of general information. It is the 
place where the most important courts sit. Great numbers 
are attracted there from various motives. But I observe that 
the men who can impart knowledge, who can stir the faculties 
of other men, invariably command most attention in the pri- 
vate assemblages which take place there. Individuals of very 
superior minds, and who think they feel a sufficiently power- 
ful stimulus from within to the attainment of mental distinc- 
tion, may underrate the benefits which indirectly flow from 
the assembling of thirty legislative bodies. They are not 
aware of the influences which have given their own minds a 
firm ground to stand upon, and a wide field for observation 
and inquiry. They are still more insensible to the advan- 
tages which the general mind receives in this way. Yet, it is 
most certain, that the high standard of popular intelligence in 
the United States is in great part attributable to the annual 
meeting of the legislative assemblies. 

In those states where the legislature sits biennially, there 
are doubtless some good reasons for the arrangement. The 
business to be transacted may be so small as not to require 
annual meetings, or the state may be burdened with debt, 
and may nobly resolve to adopt every practicable plan of 
retrenchment, rather than be unfaithful to its engagements. 

As to the basis of representation, that is, the principle on 
which the legislative body should be elected, the rule in Amer- 
ica differs greatly in different states. But notwithstanding 
this variety, it may be affirmed, that the United States have 



336 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book. II. 



made a much nearer approach to a regular plan thau is ob- 
servable in any other country. In Great Britain, the appor- 
tionment of the representatives has always been arbitrary. 

It is less so now, than before the act of 1832. There are not 
so many flagrant discrepancies as formerly, not so many popu- 
lous cities unrepresented, nor so great a number of unpeopled 
boroughs represented. But there are immense inequalities, 
notwithstanding. Not only is a majority of the house of com- 
mons elected by a part only of the substantial population, 
but it is elected by a minority of the legal electors. In Fran ce, 
the rule is attended with more regularity. The chamber of 
deputies is composed of four hundred and fifty-nine members, 
who are elected by so many electoral colleges. These col- 
leges are nothing more than assemblages of the qualified 
electors, for the purpose of making the choice. They bear 
that name, instead of the simpler one of the polls, so well 
understood in England and the United States, because the 
election is not conducted in public, but has much the char- 
ter of a secret meeting. 

The number of 11 arrondissements," or territorial divisions, 
next in size to those of the departments, is four hundred and 
fifty-nine, also. The colleges are composed of the voters in 
each of these, so that each "arrondissement " sends one 
member to the chamber of deputies. There is great inequal- 
ity in the population of these territorial divisions. But not- 
withstanding this, there is less inequality in the apportion- 
ment of representatives than in Great Britain. The prin- 
cipal difference between the two countries, as regards the 
composition of the popular chamber, consists in this : in 
France, the basis of representation is less arbitrary; but in 
Great Britain, the number of persons who possess the elec- 
toral franchise is much greater in proportion to the whole 
population, than it is in France; so that the house of com- 
mons is a more popular body than the house of deputies. The 
population of Great Britain and Ireland is not as large as that 
of France by five or six millions; but the electors are four 
times more numerous in the former. In order to found a 
popular body, both principles should be combined. The 
apportionment of the representation should be as equal as 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



337 



is practicable, and there should be a liberal rule for the exer- 
cise of the right of suffrage. 

Eepresentation may be proportioned to the gross amount 
of the population, to the number of electors, to the number 
of taxable inhabitants, or the basis may be a compound one, 
of taxation and population ; for these various rules have all 
been followed in the different American states. In addition 
to which there is a fifth plan, which has been adopted in 
the federal government, and in a few of the southern states. 
The representation in Congress, and in the lower houses of 
Maryland, North Carolina, and Georgia, is determined by 
adding to the whole number of free persons three-fifths of 
the slaves. In the composition of the federal senate, the 
rule, as I have already remarked, is necessarily different from 
all these. But so far as regards the state governments, 
the same reason does^not exist for making the rule of appor- 
tionment different in the one house from what it is in the 
other. Yet there is considerable diversity in this respect. 
For instance : in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and North 
Carolina, representation in the senate is based upon taxation ; 
while in the lower house it is in the two former based upon 
the number of electors. In Ehode Island, South Carolina, 
and Georgia, senators are distributed by a fixed rule among 
different districts, without making allowance for a variation 
in the population or taxation; while in the second, repre- 
sentatives are according to a mixed ratio of taxation and 
population ; and in the first, in proportion to the population, 
with this exception, however, that each town or city shall 
always be entitled to one member at least. In one respect, 
the rule in Connecticut and Virginia is different from what 
it is in the other states. The representation in both houses 
proceeds upon an arbitrary, or at least conjectural, rule. In 
the former, the senate is composed of twelve members, chosen 
by general district, and the number of representatives from 
each town is declared to be the same as it was prior to the 
formation of the constitution, with this exception, that a town 
afterward incorporated shall be entitled to one representative 
only. In Virginia, so many senators and representatives are 
distributed among different sections of the state, without 
any power in the legislature to alter the apportionment. In a 
22 



338 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



majority of the states, the composition of the two houses 
is the same, being based in both either upon the gross amount 
of the population, or the number of the electors. 

But notwithstanding the great variety of plans which are 
adopted in the several states, the basis of representation, 
either for the senate or the house, is in every one of them 
far more equitable than it is in any other country. 

The plan which appears to be most conformable to the 
genius of free institutions, is to x make population the basis 
of representation. 1st. The most populous will, as a general 
rule, be the most wealthy districts also. 2d. Where this is 
not the case, a representation of property interferes with the 
great principle of equality, as much as if we were to give to 
some men a quarter or half a vote, and to others a whole 
vote. If of two districts containing an equal population, 
one sends a single member, and the other, in consequence of 
its superior wealth, sends two members; the men of the last 
have what is equivalent to two votes, when compared with 
the first. 

Bat the existence of slavery raises up a new rule in the 
southern states of America, and one which contributes greatly 
to complicate the question. The most wealthy will never 
be the most populous districts, where slaves are not counted 
as persons. If they are counted as property, there is nothing 
to correspond with them as persons. In other words, the 
very thing which is regarded as property is itself population. 
Shall these half persons, half things, form the basis of repre- 
sentation for freemen, although they have no representation 
themselves'? It must be recollected, however, that this spe- 
cies of inequality will exist to some extent wherever the gross 
amount of the population affords the rule, whether that pop- 
ulation is wholly free, or in part composed of freemen, and 
in part of slaves. There is no way of avoiding it altogether, 
but by making the number of electors the basis of represen- 
tation. There are only five states, however, in which this 
rule is adopted. But the number of electors and the num- 
ber of the people are of course very different. The former 
are male adults only ; the latter include botlr sexes and all 
ages. Is there, then, more injustice in a representation of 
slaves than in one of infants $ It may be said, that whether 



chap vil] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



339 



we make the electors or the whole free population the basis, 
the distribution of representatives will be the same for all 
parts of the country ; that is, that the electors are every 
where in the same proportion to the population. It is not the 
less true, however, that some persons are made the basis of 
representation, who are not themselves entitled to vote, Now 
the thing which forbids their voting, to-wit: want of capac- 
ity, is the very thing which has induced all wise legislators 
to inderdict the right to slaves. Moreover, the proportion of 
adult males to the whole population may not be the same in 
all the non-slaveholding states. This proportion is different 
in an old, from what it is in a new country. And it is, for the 
same reason, different in one of the new and growing states 
of the American confederacy from what it is in older ones ; 
different in Indiana and Illinois from what it is in Massachu- 
setts and Connecticut. And when we consider that it is not 
the whole number of slaves, but three-fifths, which ever enter 
as an element into the basis of representation, the rule adopted 
by the federal government and three of the states has neither 
the character of novelty, or of harshness. The same remarks 
may be made in reference to the plan of basing representation 
in one house upon taxation, to that of basing it generally upon 
the number of taxable inhabitants, and to that of assigning 
one senator to each town in the state. The first is the case in 
New Hampshire, the second in Pennsylvania, and the third in 
Khode Island. Neither the amount of taxation, nor the num- 
ber of taxable inhabitants, correspond with the number of 
the electors. Minors and females will frequently be subject 
to taxation. And the Ehode Island, as well as the Virginia, 
plan, designedly rejects both the rules of population, and that 
of the number of electors. 

But I am of the opiuion, that the rule of federal numbers, 
will ultimately be abolished in the three states I have named, 
although probably never in the federal goverment. I observe 
that in all the new states which have been formed to the 
south, the ratio of federal numbers has been rejected. This is 
the case even in Louisiana, the only state except one, where 
the slaves outnumber the whites. As the old states have 
exercised a great and salutary influence upon the new, the 
new will probably, in their turn, exercise a like influence upon, 



340 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book II. 



the old. Their experience will be a sort of double experience; 
that which their ancestors who emigrated from the older 
states handed down to them, and that which they themselves 
have acquired. 

But there is a stronger reason. The tendency every where 
'manifest, to incorporate thoroughly the principle of equality 
into the political institutions, will operate to produce this 
effect. The democratic principle will not lead to the emanci- 
pation of the blacks, for this would be to place the most demo- 
cratic part of society in immediate association with them. 
But it will lead to the abolition of a representation of slaves, 
in the state governments, since that places different parts of 
the white population on an unequal footing. 

The English government, says L)e Lai me, will be no more 
when the representatives of the people begin to share in the 
•executive authority. But when we consider how the executive 
authority in that government is constituted; that the king 
^possesses numerous attributes which properly belong to the 
(legislature, and that without any direct responsibility to the 
people; it would be much more correct to say, that the con- 
stitution will always be in jeopardy, unless the representatives 
of the people succeed in appropriating to themselves some of 
his vast prerogatives. The tendency of the legislature to be- 
come the predominate power in the state is visible in all the 
constitutional governments of the present day. But far from 
rousing apprehension, it is an unequivocal s\inptom of the 
progress of regular government. This tendency in Great Brit- 
ain is more marked at the present time than when De Lalme 
wrote: it was much more so in his day than during the reign 
of the Stuarts, or during those of William, or Anne. The same 
•changes have occurred in France. No monarch now dare go 
to the legislative hall to pronounce, as Louis XV did, the dis- 
solution of the only body which served as a counterpoise to 
the throne. The whole kingdom quaked and was petrified by 
that memorable discourse, because the body to whom it was 
delivered had not been lifted up by the people, and was there- 
fore unable to assert the rights of the people. The changes 
which have taken place, both in Great Britain and Prance, so 
far from endangering the executive authority, have given it 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



341 



strength ; so far from filling those countries with confusion, 
have promoted public tranquillity. 

The preponderance of the legislative over the executive de- 
partment, is the natural consequence of the system of repre- 
sentation. In a highly civilized community, in which the sys 
tern is sure to make its appearance in one form or another, a 
larger amount of legitimate business falls to the legislature 
than to the executive ; and that department which transacts 
the greatest amount of effective business for society, is sure to 
acquire the largest share of authority. We must quarrel with 
the principles of representation therefore, or admit that when 
the people have risen in importance, kings must part with very 
many of the prerogatives which have been attributed to them. 

But if the legislature is destined to become the most influen- 
tial body in the state, will not the balance of every constitu- 
tion be overthrown % The balance of no constitution is upheld 
at all times by precisely the same means. On the contrary, 
an adjustment, which may have been skillful and judicious at 
one period, may afterward become very faulty, because illy 
adapted to the structure of society. If this has undergone 
material changes, it is most likely that the machinery by which 
we propose to maintain the constitutional balance will undergo 
a corresponding change. If at the present day the only way 
by which an equlibrium of authority in the British govern- 
ment is preserved, is by denying in practice powers which are 
theoretically ascribed to the king, it is plain that the day is 
not very distant when the theory of the constitution will be 
brought into a much nearer conformity with the practice. 
For the disguised and silent transference of power from the 
executive to the legislative is, in a highly advanced society, 
the certain forerunner of a formal and legalized appropriati m 
of it by the latter. 

In a representative government the legislature gai ns strength, 
while the powers of the executive either fall into disuse, or are 
distributed among a great number of administrative officers. 
But the responsibility of the legislature to the whole commu- 
nity is also increased. We cannot then adopt the opinion of 
De Lalme, but should rather insist upon it as an undeniable 
truth, that when all efforts to diminish the power of the king 
have become unavailing, the British constitution will be no 



342 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[bockil 



more. Every scheme for widening the basis of representation, 
is a step in disguise toward lessening the real authority. The 
reform act of 1832 strengthened the legislature, and saved the 
constitution ; and other reform acts will certainly be passed 
which will humble the powerful, but add strength and security 
to the government. 

The preponderance of the legislative power, is the striking 
fact in the history of the American governments both national 
and state. No communities, to say the least, have been better 
governed. And it is but the other day, that one of the greatest 
English statesmen declared that "there was no reason why 
this system should not endure for ages." It is true, all human 
institutions are after all very imperfect. All fall infinitely 
short, not only of what is conceivable, but very far short of 
what is practicable. Let us cherish what we have, as the 
only means of extending the limits of the practicable. Some 
future generation may be able to do what now seems impos- 
sible : to resolve the great problem of the social, as the 
present have resolved that of the political equality of men. 
All that is necessary to this end is to cause all men to obey 
the precepts of virtue, aud to become educated. It is clear 
that there is no absolute impracticability in the first; and 
although the last, in the extended sense in which I use the 
term educated, is now totally inconsistent with the multiform, 
subordinate, and laborious employments of society, yet I am 
persuaded, that if the first is ever accomplished, the second 
will be made to follow, through instrumentalities of which we 
can only obtain an indistinct glance. 

The opinion of Montesquieu is more plausible, because it is 
more vague and ambiguous, than than that of De Lalme. The 
English constitution, says Montesquieu, will be no more, when 
the legislative becomes more corrupt than the executive. But 
to this term, corrupt, we are entitled to give a more extended 
meaning than is generally attributed to it. A legislative body 
is corrupt, when its members procure their seats by bribery 
and other sinister practices. This was the case when Montes 
quieu wrote, and it is to be feared that it is too much the case 
now. But a legislative body is still more corrupt, when exer- 
cising not merely the ordinary legislative power, but represent- 
ing the sovereignty of the state, it permits, century after cen- 



CHAP. VII.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



343 



tury, the grossest inequalities in the representation, without 
adopting some plan of remedying them. A legislative body 
is corrupt when, holding the relation of guardian to a sister 
island, it permits the most wanton oppression to be practiced 
upon large bodies of men, because their religious creed was 
not the same as its own. All these things, and many more, 
were practiced, and undertaken to be justified, when "the 
spirit of laws" was written. And yet the English constitu- 
tion, as it then existed, was the beau ideal of government with 
Montesquieu. It is one advantage of free institutions, that 
they discountenance certain political vices, by putting them 
out of fashion. Time out of mind, there has been a constant 
tendency to exaggerate the vices of the weak, and to extenu- 
ate those of the powerful, because the powerful lead the fash- 
ion. And if the British parliament has relaxed its severities 
toward Ireland, has opened its doors to catholics, and placed 
the representation in other respects, on a more equal footing, 
we must not conclude that it has become more corrupt; that 
it has usurped power, although these things do in reality in- 
crease the power of the legislature, and render it more than 
ever a counterpoise to the executive. 



BOOK III. 



CHAPTER I. 

RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS. 

There is an argument in favor of an established church, 
contained in Mr. Hume's History of England, which, on ac- 
count of its extreme ingenuity, is entitled to great considera 
tion. He admits that almost all the arts and sciences, which 
administer to the instruction of mankind, may be safely left 
to the voluntary efforts of those who undertake to teach them ; 
but he contends that religious doctrines constitute an excep- 
tion to the rule. This eminent writer supposes that the violent 
and immoderate zeal of different sects, each striving by every 
art and device to gain proselytes to its cause, will be product- 
ive of interminable contention, and that in this way the tran- 
quility and good order of the state will be deeply affected. 
He proposes, therefore, as the only cure for the evil, to give 
one sect the supremacy ; in other words, to create an estab- 
lished church. But the mischief which Mr. Hume was desi- 
rous of curing, lies much deeper than in the mere number or 
the discordant opinions of different sects. It is to be traced 
solely to the mixture of politics and religion. It is the offi- 
cious interference of the civil magistrate with religion, and the 
unbecoming interference of religious sects with state affairs, 
which whets the spirit of proselytism, and furnishes incentives 
additional to, and foreign to, those which the spirit of Chris- 
tianity suggests to enslave the minds of men. By giving one 
sect a religious establishment, religion is converted into an 
engine of government, and instead of curing, we only give a 



346 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



different direction, to the mischief. The zeal of religious 
parties is more inflamed by withholding from them privileges 
which are bestowed upon the established church, than would 
be the case if all were placed upon an equal footing. To be 
placed under the ban of public opinion, to be subjected to 
some disability or disadvantage which does not attach to 
other men, is a powerful and not always a commendable mo- 
tive for making unusual exertions to diminish the influence of 
the last. There is no effectual plan, therefore, of doing justice 
to all sects and reconciling the great interests of religion with 
those of the community, but dissolving the connection between 
church and state, and so administering civil affairs that no 
sect, in the propagation of its doctrines, shall draw to itself 
any part of the authority which appertains to government. 

Our speculations of any sort hardly ever rise much higher 
than the age in which we live. The use of all our knowledge 
is to be employed about the actual phenomena which are sub- 
mitted to us; and it is the phenomena which surround us 
which rouse in us all our aptitude for thinking, and supply all 
the information which we are able to attain. Books give us 
the history of the past, while all philosophical speculation has 
reference to the present. But to be successful in our inquiries 
we must witness the development, up to a certain point, of 
the events which are submitted to us. In no other way can 
we make any sure calculation of the results. The superiority 
of some minds to others, often consists in the opportunity 
afforded to take advantage of the favorable point of view. 

When Mr. Hume wrote, religious establishments had ex- 
isted from time immemorial, and yet religious quarrels and re- 
ligious conspiracies had constantly disturbed the peace of 
society. Neither the edict of Nantz, nor the English act of 
toleration, extinguished them. If he had lived at the present 
day, and witnessed the great advantages which have attended 
the abolition of a state religion in America, his views would 
have been more just, because more comprehensive, and he 
would have been led to a different conclusion. Warburton 
would not even then have been convinced. 

The late Dr. Arnold, however, a most able and estimable 
man, in an appendix to his lectures on history, has insisted 
upon the right and the duty of the state to take the affairs of 



chap. i. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



347 



religion under its superintendence. His notions of the office 
and functions of the civil magistrate are such, that he would 
have government ordain the maxims of religion as laws, on 
the same principle that it makes any other enactments for the 
regulation of the citizens. If the public weal requires the 
imposition of taxes by a legislative body, for the same reason 
is it supposed that the public weal demands that the cardinal 
rules of religion should have the same authoritative sanction 
affixed to them. 

These are the views of a man who hated every species of 
oppression, and who was sincerely and thoroughly devoted to 
the good of his fellow creatures. But although he can in no 
sense be said to have been wedded to a sacerdotal caste, yet 
it is evident that the institutions under which he lived exer- 
cised a powerful influence upon him, and communicated a 
tincture to all his opinions upon this subject. The plan of 
which he has given a sketch (for it is attended with such inhe- 
rent difficulties that it will only admit of a sketch), is met by 
two arguments which it is difficult to answer, because they 
are both deduced from experience, and from experience on a 
very broad scale. And first, it is an undoubted fact, that 
there is as strong a sentiment of religion and morality per- 
vading the American people, as exists among any other, and 
much stronger than among the great majority of nations who 
have had a state religion. In the second place, it will be admit- 
ted that if people would voluntary consent to pay their taxes, or 
if they would faithfully comply with all their private contracts, 
and abstain from the commission of personal injuries, there 
would be no necessity for the intervention of government, by 
the appointment of tax gatherers, and the establishment of 
courts of justice. This is not the case however in matters of 
this kind ; but it is so in all religious concerns. Men do actu- 
ally discharge their religious duties, not as well as could be 
desired, but iufiuitely better than when the state interferes to 
exact the performance of them. The very reasons therefore 
which render it incumbent on the state to interpose for the 
protection of one set of interests lest they should fall to decay, 
prompt it to abstain from intermeddling with another set lest 
they also should fall to decay. It is immaterial whether we 



348 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



call one class secular, and the other religious interests: we 
may call both secular, or both religious ; but it will not follow 
that the actions which fall within these two classes should be 
subjected to the same discipline. The true theory then is, 
that in as much as religion creates a relation between God 
and man, the religious sentiment is necessarily disturbed by 
the intervention of the civil magistrate. 

It is not necessary to notice the intrinsic difficulties which 
would attend the scheme of Dr. Arnold, if it were attempted 
to be put in practice. Shall the maxims of religion, which 
are proclaimed by the civil magistrate as laws, be subjected 
to the interpretation of catholics, or episcopalians, of presby- 
terians, or unitarians'? Every attempt to prop up religion, 
by such a feeble instrumentality, would end in covering religion 
with dishonor. 

There is another view which may be taken in reference to 
Mr. Hume's plan. The clergy of an established church, from 
their position in society, and their acquaintance with much of 
the literature and philosophy of the day, have much to do 
with the education of youths. Now, it is an undoubted fact, 
that the progress of religious inquiry is closely connected with 
that of philosophical inquiry ; that freedom of thought in the 
one, contributes to enlightened views in the other; and that 
the true way to promote knowledge, is to extend the utmost 
latitude to all kindred pursuits. If it were only a question 
with regaid to the progress of knowledge among the clergy 
themselves, this view would be of importance; but when it is 
recollected that they stand at the head of the schools of edu- 
cation, and thus assist in training to thought and speculation 
all the minds which are destined to figure in society in any 
way, the question becomes one of still greater magnitude. 
For although an ecclesiastical establishment, with freedom of 
worship to dissenteis, is greatly preferable, to the supreme 
dominion of one sect ; yet the evil is only mitigated, not cured, 
in that way. In place of the authority of the law giver, the 
influence of the law giver is substituted. And no one need be 
told, that the influence of government has a wonderful efficacy 
in repressing the efforts of the human mind, as well among 
those whom it takes under its patronage, as among those 
whom it discards from its countenance and favor. 



CHAP. I.] 



OF FREE INSTITUttONS. 



349 



The plan of curing the dissensions of religious sects, by 
giving monarchical rule to one of them, is a kin to the error 
which prevails in politics, that it is necessary to confer su- 
preme authority on a prince, or body of nobles, in order to 
extinguish civil dissensions. Whereas, the true maxim is, 
that the peace of society is never in so much danger, as when 
authority of any sort is consolidated, and never so well 
guarded as when it is dispersed. Power may be condensed in 
ecclesiastical as well as in political institutions; and the 
scheme on which the American people have proceeded in re- 
ligious affairs, is only an amplification of the great principle 
of the distribution of power. It is a mistake to suppose, that 
if some sects are disfranchised, they are therefore deprived of 
the ability to do mischief. On the contrary, their zeal and 
activity are increased, and their efforts are sure to take a 
direction prejudicial to the public tranquility. We seek to 
shut them out from all interference with political questions by 
endowing one denomination with extraordinary privileges, 
and they are thereby more completely drawn within the vor- 
tex of politics. In other words, oecause religious parties are 
disconnected with the state, it does not therefore follow that 
they are disconnected with the political world. The sect 
between which and the state an alliance is formed, or which 
stands in the relation of dependent to the state, as its head, 
will naturally exercise its influence in favor of the govern- 
ment, and the dissenting sects will throw their influence in the 
opposite direction. These behold their own government as 
the author of the disabilities under which they labor, and 
only wait for a favorable opportunity to crush an authority so 
unnatural and so revolting to all persons of good sense. Ire- 
land is an example on a great scale, and the American com- 
monwealth, before the thorough dissolution of the connection 
between church and state, is an example on a small one. And 
even in England, from the commencement of the French revo- 
lution to the present day, political disputes have derived much 
of their acerbity from the same source. It is easy to see that 
all questions of parliamentary reform receive a complexion 
from the views and influence of the dissenting sects. It is 
equally easy to perceive, that many other projects, of a still 



350 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



more sweeping character, and which are only smothered, not 
destroyed, are engendered by the same cause. 

It is now proved that the greatest interest which can occupy 
the mind of man — that which is fitted above all others to en- 
gage his attention from the age of puberty to the grave— may 
be entirely withdrawn from the care of the civil magistrate, 
and that both religious and secular interests will be thereby 
subserved. The plan of an established church was at one 
time adopted in all the American states, except Pennsylvania 
and Ehode Island. The nature of the establishment was, to 
be sure, not the same in all. In Massachusetts, Connecticut, 
New York, Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina, the con- 
nection between church and state was as strict as in Great 
Britain. In the others it existed in a modified form. In all of 
them this connectiou has been entirely dissolved; in the 
greater part, soon after the revolution. But it was not until 
the year 1816, that it was thoroughly put an end to in Con- 
necticut ; and not until the year 1833, that the finishing blow 
was given to it in Massachusetts.* Men of all denominations 
in every one of these states — those who were most opposed to 
the introduction of the new system — now acknowledge that it 
has been productive of great benefit to both church and state. 
There is more religious harmony, and consequently a greater 
degree of political tranquility, because simply there isnothiug 
to pamper the power of one sect, and to provoke the hostility 
of others As the connection, wherever it exists, is estab- 
lished by the laws, the sects who feel themselves aggrieved 
will take an active part in all political elections, for the pur- 
pose of delivering themselves from the burden of which they 
complain. Thus, in Connecticut, where the congregational 
sect was the favored one, all other denominations, episcopa- 
lians, baptists, methodists, and universalists, united them- 
selves closely together in order to uproot the laws;, and after 
years of struggle, which occasioned painful heartburnings in 
every part of society, they at last succeeded in gaining a ma- 
jority in the legislature, and acquiring that Christian liberty 
to which all men are entitled. So in Virginia, after the revo- 
lution : all the dissenting sects combiued to influence the 

* Religion in America, by R. Baird, pp. 115, 116. 



CHAP. I.} 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



351 



elections, as it was only in that way that the episcopal, which 
was the established church, could be deprived of the authori- 
ty and privileges which had been conferred upon it. The de- 
bate, which resulted in the dissolution of church and state, 
was one of the most stormy which has occurred in the Virgi- 
nia legislature. 

This great question, as to the political constitution of the 
church, agitated the German reformers at the commencement 
of the reformation. They were exceedingly anxious to get rid 
of the supremacy of princes in everything which related to 
the interests of religion. But they could conceive no way of 
doing this but by placing themselves under the dominion of an 
ecclesiastical hierarchy. Yain and fruitless expedient ; for an 
ecclesiastical hierarchy will ever terminate in an alliance be- 
tween church and state. It was reserved for the American 
states to solve this difficult problem. And the religious insti- 
tutions of this country may be said to be the last and most 
important effort which has been made in completing that great 
revolution which commenced in the sixteenth century. 

I have alluded to the unfavorable influence which an eccle- 
siastical establishment has upon the progress of knowledge 
and the general freedom of thought. This influence is very 
striking in everything which concerns the political interests 
of the state. The ministers of an established church look 
with singular complacency upon the abuses which have crept 
into the state; since to question or discountenance them 
would be to impair materially the authority which assists in 
upholding themselves. Civil government is as much the 
creature of improvement as any other human interest ; and 
whatever operates as a restraint upon inquiry, raises up 
obstacles to this end ; the more formidable, as those who cre- 
ate them are insensible of their influence. The alliance be- 
tween the government and a powerful and influential priest- 
hood, enables secular princes to defy public opinion. The 
minds of men, pressed by the combined weight of supersti- 
tion and authority, are slow to find out anything wrong in a 
system to winch they and their ancestors have been habitu- 
ated : and people soon persuade themselves that the king has 
the same right to govern the state which God has to govern 
the world. 



352 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book hi. 



Many causes may contribute to counteract this influence. 
No nation is permitted in the nineteenth century to sit se- 
curely locked up in its own institutions, without receiving 
numerous influences from abroad. The communication be- 
tween the people of different countries is more constant now 
than it was between the people of the same country a century 
ago. In Great Britain it is in spite of, not in consequence of, 
the connection between church and state, that the general 
mind has been borne onward in the march of improvement. 
The existence of an established church has produced what 
Mr. Hume was desirous of avoiding: it has multiplied the 
number of dissenters from the church of England; so that 
instead of being an inconsiderable body, as formerly, they 
now stand, in England and Wales, in something like the pro- 
portion of six millions to nine millions. And it is not im- 
probable that the growth of their numbers, joined to the 
superior energy which they possess, may at some not very 
distant day, bring about the same revolution, and by the 
same means, as was accomplished in Connecticut and Vir- 
ginia. 

The clergy of the established church in England were at 
the head of the party which first stimulated the American 
and then the French war. There was but one of the English 
prelates who voted against the first; the Bishop of Llandaff 
was the only one who declared himself in opposition to the 
second. The African slave trade — the baibarities of which 
are so shocking to every mind of humanity — was vindicated 
in parliament by nearly the whole body of prelates; so that 
Lord Eldon was heard to declare that a tiaffic, which he had 
learned to believe was the most infamous in which human 
beings could engage, could hardly be so inconsistent with the 
principles of Christianity.* It was the bench of bishops who 
opposed most vehemently the reioim bill, an act demanded 
by every consideration of prudence, not to say, of justice and 
equity; and the only possible objection to which is, that it 
did not go far enough. If we inquire what body of men have 
been most lukewarm in the cause of popular instruction, 
who most hostile to the noble tffbits ol Bonrilly and Mac- 



* Black Book, pp. 6 aud 7. 



CHAP. I.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



353 



kintosh, to ameliorate the provisions of the criminal code; 
the answer is the same ; it was the clergy of the established 
church, who exerted themselves directly or indirectly to 
thwart these improvements. 

It is clear, then, that the clergy of an established church, 
in consequence of their close connection with the crown, the 
elevated position which they occupy in the state, and their 
power of influencing the people, may become an engine in the 
hands of government, capable of being wielded as effectually 
as the army or navy. 

That the principle of religion is absolutely necessary to 
hold together the elements of civil society, is a proposition 
which will be doubted by few. It is so, not merely as has 
been supposed, because it presides over a large class of actions 
of which the civil magistrate cannot take cognizance, but be- 
cause it lies at the foundation of all our notions of right, and 
prevents, in innumerable instances, the commission of crimes 
which are punishable, by the civil magistrate. Indeed it is 
doubtful, if human affairs were delivered over to the conduct 
of beings in whom the religious sentiment was not the master 
principle, whether the terms civil magistrate and laws would 
have any signification, and whether the universal licentious- 
ness which would prevail, involving, as it must, both magis- 
trate aud citizen, would not disable auy community from up- 
holding institutions which were calculated to redress and 
punish crime. 

It may be supposed, that if the religious principle is of so 
great importance to the well being of society, ihat it should 
in some way or other enter as an element into the general 
legislation; and admitting that an established church is as in- 
consistent with the spirit of Christianity as it is with the 
genius of free institutions; yet that there are .a number of 
ways in which the laws might interfere, in order to secure the 
observance of religious duties. But it is not in the power of 
human legislation to reach all the actions of men, and although 
this might be thought to be a great defect in the constitution 
of human nature, yet in reality, it is a wise provision, calcu- 
lated to strengthen the religious sentiment, aud to cultivate a 
pure aud genuine morality. For if the laws were to over- 
shadow the whole circle of human actions, men would be con- 
23 



354 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



verted into mere automata, religion into an empty ceremonial, 
and nothing being left to the natural impulse of the heart, 
the fountain from which the laws derive their chief strength 
would be dried up. 

It is, to be sure, difficult to determine always what are the 
exact limits of legislation — to distinguish between those ac- 
tions with which government should interfere, and those which 
it should let alone. But although the precise boundary be- 
tween the two is invisible, yet in practice it is easy to find it. 
Something must go behind the laws, which cannot therefore 
be itself the subject of legislation. 

A very eminent writer, and one of the greatest statesmen 
France has produced, Benjamin Constant, is opposed to an 
established church ; but he believes it to be necessary that the 
clergy should be salaried by the government. This is one 
step in advance of the other European states, for it is not the 
clergy of one, but of all, denominations who are intended to 
be provided for. Great ideas seldom spring up in the mind 
more than half-formed. The understandings of the wisest 
men are in a state of continual pupilage. And here is one of 
the most powerful and enlightened advocates of civil and re- 
ligious freedom, who desires in the mildest manner possible, 
to cement the religious interest of the people with their politi- 
cal institutions. He who is master of my income, possesses 
an influence over my actions, and if he is clothed with politi- 
cal power, he possesses something more than influence — he pos- 
sesses authority. Benjamin Constant supposes, that the clergy 
will not be adequately rewarded, unless the state interposes to 
provide for them. And yet in America, where the voluntary 
principle is universally introduced, the ministers of religion 
are much more liberally paid than in France. The amount 
raised for this purpose in the United States, with a population 
of twenty millions, is nearly eleven millions of dollars. In 
France, the population of which is thirty-two or three mil- 
lions, it is not much more than nine millions of dollars. The 
compensation which the American clergy receive is larger than 
is paid in any state of continental Europe. It is double what 
it is in Austria, or Russia, and quadruple what it is in Prussia. 

The plan proposed by Benjamin Constant has been incor- 
porated into the constitutional "charte" of 14th August, 1830. 



CHAP. I. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



355 



In some respects, it resembles the system which formerly pre- 
vailed in two of the New England states. Both plans may be 
characterized as a species of modified connection between 
church and state. In Massachusetts, the parish or township 
imposed the tax necessary to the support of the clergy. In 
one respect, this is infinitely preferable to the French system ; 
for in the first, the duty of defraying the expense was devolved 
upon the local jurisdiction where the church was situated ; 
while in the last, being collected by the government, a system 
of universal centralization is established, both in church and 
state. But in another respect, the French system is most en- 
titled to approbation ; for it distributes the reward among all 
Christian sects; — while in Massachusetts, it was reserved for 
ministers of the Prostestant faith exclusively. The Massa- 
chusetts scheme was a relic of those institutions which were 
planted during the early settlement of the colony when the 
Presbyterian church was the established religion. The con- 
stitution of 1780 effected a great change in this respect. The 
funds collected, instead of being appropriated to the support 
of one denomination, were reserved for that sect to which the 
majority of voters in the township belonged. But the minority, 
however large, were thus compelled to support a clergyman of 
a different faith than their own ; acd were frequently deprived 
of the building which they had themselves erected. Like the 
Euglish system the people were obliged to maintain a clergy- 
man to whose creed they were conscientiously opposed. It was 
not until 1833 that this last remnant of superstition was obliter- 
ated, and the union of church and state finally terminated in 
America. 

An established church is in no way subservient to the inter- 
ests of religion, or the good government of the state. It does 
not allay the feuds between rival sects ; it only inflames their 
zeal. It is surprising when Mr. Hume had advanced so far as 
to admit of toleration to all dissenters, that the same process 
of reasoning had not conducted him to the end, and persuaded 
him that if such happy consequences were the fruit of remov- 
ing some part of the unnatural restraint imposed by the civil 
magistrate, that still more salutary effects would follow from 
removing it altogether. 

An ecclesiastical hierarchy does not contribute to the promo- 



356 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book in. 



tion of religion, among either people or clergy. Its tendency 
is directly the reverse. It lays the foundation for wide-spread 
irreligion and immorality. The cost of the church establish- 
ment in England is as great as in all the states of continental 
Europe put together. But a large proportion of the clergy 
have no more connection with their congregations, than if t hey 
resided in America. They receive the stipend, and employ 
deputies for a pitiful sum to perform the duty. Nor can it be 
otherwise, when the abominable system of pluralities prevails 
so extensively, and when the minister is entirely independent 
of his congregation for his salary, and may not even be the 
man of their choice. The church establishment costs about 
forty millions of dollars, and out of this enormous sum not 
half a million is paid to the four thousand two hundred and 
•fifty-four curates, who are for the most part employed to do 
the real and effective duty. Not only have the congregation 
of the established church no voice in the choice of their min- 
ister; the right of presentation is as much the subject of traffic 
as the public stocks, or any other commodity in the market. 
The consequence is that immorality and licentiousness prevail 
to a fearful extent, among a large proportion of the English 
clergy. The mere ceremonial of religion is substituted in the 
place of religion itself; and may be said to constitute the sys- 
tem of modern indulgences, by which men purchase for them- 
selves an exemption from reproach; — a system which does not 
differ essentially from that preached in the sixteeuth century; 
but simply conformable to the fashion of this day, as the other 
was to the age of Leo the tenth: so that unless a second 
Luther appears, the day may not be distant when persons in 
whom the religious sentiment is not extinct, may set them- 
selves about inquiring whether, in order to be religious, it may 
not be necessary to abstaiu from going to church. Iu the 
TJnited States, although there is much connected with this 
matter which is calculated to make a thoughtful mind ponder, 
yet it cannot be doubted (since we have the testimony of impar- 
tial Europeans) that the observance of religious duties is more 
strict, and the conduct of the clergy more free from reproach, 
than in the great majority of the European states. Indeed it 
may be doubted whether, if there were no vicious clergymen, 
there would be any infidels. 



CHAP. I. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



357 



The ecclesiastical establishments of Europe and the United 
States, then, present this difference : that in the former, the 
clergyman is independent of his congregation for his place 
and salary, while in the latter he is entirely dependent upon 
it for both. The American system is productive of one mis- 
chief. The minister is sometimes obliged to wink at many 
improprieties among his congregation, in order to retain his 
popularity. But there is no way of avoiding this, but by en- 
countering still greater difficulties. Any scheme is preferable 
to one which would give us a fox-hunting, card-playing clergy, 
or a clergy which could afford to be slothful and idle because 
they were opulent. In the European system, corruption com- 
mences at the fountain head. Men cannot deliver themselves 
from it, if they were so disposed; and the new habits of think- 
ing, which are inculcated by the example of those in high 
places, render them indifferent about doing so even if they 
were able. 

In an American congregation, I can always discern some 
persons who are sincerely religious. But the minister is 
equally dependent upon all the members of his congregation : 
upon those who desire to see him true to the faith, as well as 
upon those who would have him countenance a lax and fashon- 
able morality. Some compromise must take place between 
these two different classes. Those who are indifferent, do not 
wish to separate themselves from the rest of the congregation 
in order to choose a minister more to their taste. This is 
(most generally) the very last thing they would desire. Inde- 
pendently of the increased expense they would incur, and in- 
dependently of the odium which would follow from an open 
rupture, there is that sense of justice among the great ma- 
jority of mankind, that they respect virtue wherever it is to 
be found, and admire nothing so much as a fearless and un- 
wavering performance of duty, even though it may interfere 
with their own practice. I observe, among an American con- 
gregation, a very general willingness, on the part of those 
who are indifferent to religion, to defer to the opinion of those 
who are sincere. They distrust their own judgment and feel 
as if they had no right to command, where they had never 
learned to obey. The influence which is exercised in these 
ways is highly salutary. The clergyman feels that his moral 



358 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



power after all depends upon the religious part of his congre- 
gation ; and those of his hearers who would have had things 
conducted after a different manner — who perhaps joined the 
congregation to promote their worldly interests — are at last 
pursuaded, that if religion be true, religion must be preached. 
All parties are in this way made better than they would other- 
wise be. The sagacious clergyman, with his eye ever intent 
upon the action of so many apparently contradictory motives, 
and not wishing to dash the prospect of doing good, bat 
rather to make everything turn up for the best, does not relax 
the strictness of his preaching, but dismisses that tone of 
authority which is so prevalent among the clergy of an estab- 
lished church. He uses the most straight-forward, and yet the 
most gentle means to accomplish his object. He renders the 
good, better; and wins over many who would be irritated, 
perhaps forever alienated, by a contrary course. So true is 
it, that a fashionable clergyman is not, therefore, a popular 
one, that I have known many instances in the United States, 
of pastors dismissed by their congregations for levity and un- 
becoming manners, and very few where they were dismissed 
in consequence of a fearless and upright discharge of their 
duties. 

In France, not only are the clergy dependent for their sal- 
ary upon the government ; they are dependent upon it for 
their places. The league between church and state is even 
closer than in Great Britain. In the last the minister collects 
his own tithes; in the first, government receives and disburses 
the taxes which are imposed for this purpose. The king of 
France nominates the archbishops, thirteen in number ; he 
also nominates all the bishops. Both these orders of ecclesi- 
astics receive canonical investiture from the pope, and make 
solemn oath to the king, as a condition precedent to entering 
upon the discharge of their functions. The bishops, on the 
other hand, nominate all the inferior clergy; but these nomi- 
nations, with some exceptions, are submitted to the king, who 
may either reject or ratify them. 

Another remarkable feature in this system consists in the 
control which the crown exercises over the clergy of the pro- 
testant church. This church is presided over by the ministers, 
by consistorial assemblies, and by synods. But the election 



CHAP. I.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



359 



of a pastor, although it is made by the consistory, must re- 
ceive the approbation of the king in order to be valid ; and 
although the synods may make regulations relative to church 
discipline and doctrine, yet their decisions are obliged to be 
submitted to the king for his approval. Nor have the synods 
liberty to assemble without the permission of the government. 
The state is not satisfied with being the head of one church ; 
it is the head of all. It reigns supreme, not merely over the 
predominant sect, but over all sects. Like the Grecian and 
Koman commonwealths, it takes all denominations under its 
guardianship, and establishes all by law. Doubtless this 
state of things is greatly to be preferred to that which for- 
merly existed, when this fine country was as much distracted « 
by religious strife as it was by political dissensions. The step 
which has been taken toward the promotion of religious free- 
dom is immense. And if government does interpose at all in 
ecclesiastical matters, it may be said with a good deal of justice, 
that inasmuch as the clergy of all denominations are provided 
for by law, all denominations should come under the super- 
vision of the law. 

But the introduction of the voluntary principle, which now 
prevails universally in America, is a prodigious step in ad- 
vance of what any other government has attempted. It is a 
system " sui generis," and has grown up silently and steadily, 
without attracting much observation from abroad. Neverthe- 
less, I regard this complete severance of church and state as 
the "chef d'ceuvre" in ecclesiastical government, and as re- 
dounding more to the political tranquillity of the state than 
any single civil regulation which has ever been made. The 
connection between all secular and religious interests is 
strengthened, just in proportion as the connection' between 
government and church is weakened. 

The rise of a sacerdotal caste in the United States seems to 
be forbidden by the great multiplication of sects. Religious 
and civil liberty are both protected by the same means. The 
unbounded freedom of thought which pervades every class of 
society creates the greatest diversity of opinions ; and the 
influence which is possessed by any one sect is modified and 
controlled by the influence of all others. Each wants to be 



360 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book m. 



free ; but none can succeed in obtaining freedom, unless all 
are permitted to enjoy it. 

When one surveys the vast establishments of our bible, 
missionary, and other societies ; when one considers the 
princely revenues which are received by some of the churches 
— in one instance almost vieing with those of an eastern 
prince — the thought may very naturally cross the mind of one 
who is least disposed to take exception to anything, because 
it is not in conformity with his preconceived notions, whether 
all these things may not ultimately terminate in raising up an 
ecclesiastical hierarchy similar to what exists in most other 
countries. Religion was everywhere first preached in sim- 
plicity; but wealth and prosperity, in numerous instances, 
corrupted the clergy, who sought to conceal this deplorable 
change from the multitude, by assuming more pomp, arrogat- 
ing more authority, and causing the unintelligibleness of their 
doctrines to keep even pace with the degeneracy of their 
manners. It is in this way that a sacerdotal caste, as distin- 
guished from an independent religion, has been established in 
so many countries. Nor do I pretend to assert that there is 
any absolute certainty the United States will be saved from 
this destiny; nor that the approach to it may not even be 
more gradual and more concealed from public observation 
than it has been anywhere else. One way to guard against a 
public evil is to persuade every one that its existence is pos- 
sible. The watchfulness and circumspection which are thus 
created, present innumerable obstacles in the way of those 
who might be disposed to abandon the simplicity of religious 
worship in order to build up a gorgeous fabric of superstition. 

When we consider that not only are powerful religious asso- 
ciations constantly springing up in the United States, but 
that government and religious sects do not stand upon the 
same vantage ground, there might seem to be an additional 
reason for feeling alarm. The state is forbidden by all the 
American constitutions from intermeddling with religion ; but 
the clergy are not forbidden to interfere with the affairs of 
state. They are not only at liberty to inculcate political doc- 
trines from the pulpit, but under the federal, and most of the 
state constitutions, they are eligible to seats in the legislative 
body, and may hold other important offices. An immunity, 



CHAP. I.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



361 



however, is not of equal advantage to all, unless all are 
equally able to turn it to account. The clergy and the laity 
may be placed on the same footing, so far as regards the mere 
possession of a privilege, but they may not be able to exercise 
it. with the same facility. Now I observe among the people 
generally, a marked disapprobation of everything like politi- 
cal harangues from the pulpit. I observe an equally general 
disinclination to elect ministers of the gospel to civil offices. 
The constitutional ordinance, which prohibits the government 
from interfering with religion, is founded upon the notion that 
religion is something beyond and above human legislation, 
and that to mix the two incongruously together would be to 
do violence to both. No class is more sensible of this than 
the clergy themselves. They feel that to mingle in the dis- 
putes of political parties, is to desert a strong for a weak 
position ; that although an inflammatory harangue from the 
pulpit, or a seat in the legislature, may give them a temporary 
or local popularity, yet they lose in the same proportion, in 
point of weight and influence, as clergymen. The conse- 
quence is, that no class of men are so unambitious of political 
preferment, and (with very few exceptions) it is with exceed- 
ing caution and distrust that they venture to touch upon the 
political questions which divide the community. 

But it is the great multiplicity of sects in the United States 
which constitutes the chief security against the growth of an 
ecclesiastical hierarchy. The same causes which act upon po- 
litical parties, act upon religious sects. Whenever one party 
in the state is disposed to carry things with a high hand, and 
to arrogate to itself an exclusive authority, the alarm is in- 
stantly given, and hostile opinions grow up, which tend to 
counterbalance its authority. And as soon as one religious 
sect gives promise of becoming an aristocratic body, other 
denominations vie with each other in calling back the minds 
of men to the pure doctrines and manners which originally 
distinguished the christian community. It even happens 
sometimes that two or more sects are formed out of one. An 
incompatibility of views, arising out of causes similar to those 
I have mentioned, produces a schism in a whole denomination, 
and leads to a still greater multiplicity of sects. We have 
seen a remarkable example of this in the United States within 



362 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book nr. 



a few years. The three most Dumerous sects, the presbyteri- 
ans, baptists and methodists, have been rent in twain, in con- 
sequence of dissensions among themselves. And although 
the interpretation given to some doctrines, or a desire to 
effect a change in some form or other of church government 
and discipline, have been put forward as the causes of these 
disagreements, I think I can discern behind them some other 
more powerfully operating motives. Thus to take a single ex- 
ample: although the new-school separated from the old-school 
presbyterians chiefly in consequence of objections to the doc- 
trine of the necessity of the will, which the latter maintained, 
a doctrine which probably no argument will ever shake, yet it 
is possible for a religious sect to build up a well-compacted 
system of doctrines, and then, forgetting that this after all 
constitutes but the skeleton of religion, to fall down and wor- 
ship it, instead of worshiping religion. I think I observed a 
strong desire on the part of those who seceded, to introduce 
more warmth into religious exercises, and a more practical 
manner of teaching and expounding the truths of Christianity. 

If I could fasten upon any causes which will arrest this 
multiplication of sects, I might then be able to discern the 
existence at some future day of a sacerdotal caste in America. 
Extreme indifference to religion, if it pervaded all classes, 
would undoubtedly have this effect. The institution would 
degenerate into a mere form, and then a pompous ceremonial. 
The priesthood would acquire power in proportion to the little 
interest which the general population felt in religion. And 
the manners of men would be molded into the form best cal- 
culated to fortify the worldly authority of the clergy. Where 
an universal indifference prevailed, there could be no incentive 
to diversity of opinion, and the distinction of sects would 
cease. 

Will the same causes which threaten every where to demol- 
ish the idea of kingly rule, be equally fatal to the notion of a 
single ruler of the universe'? Is the unity of the Governor of 
the universe so allied with that of a human governor, that if 
all traces of the last should be obliterated, religion would be 
in danger of being undermined? If it be true, that in other 
countries what are termed the enlightened classes are infidels 
at heart, and only profess religion because they believe it is a 



CHAP. I.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



363 



check upon the masses, what will be the consequence when 
the thorough dissemination of instruction renders the great 
majority of the people well informed 1 I predict, that if ever 
the spread of equality is fatal to the notion of unity in relig- 
ion, it will not give rise to a plurality of gods ; it will sweep 
all religion from the face of the earth, and satan will be liter- 
ally unchained, to turn earth into hell. I cannot but believe, 
that when the North American continent contains a popula- 
tion of one or two hundred millions, all speaking the same 
language and impelled by an irresistible curiosity to make in- 
quiry into everything; that when the sameness of manners and 
sameness of dialect have opened free access to every one's 
thoughts and schemes, it will exert an influence such as has 
never been witnessed upon the progress of knowledge, the 
social organization, and the religious institutions. But I am 
of opinion that the diffusion of equality will be fatal to the 
worldly authority of priests, and that the right modeling the 
authority ot civil magistrates will add wonderfully to the rev- 
erence for God. I find that the greater the range of inquiry 
of a single mind, the more diverse the objects which it takes 
in the more certain it is of arriving at some general and pre- 
siding truths. There is nothing, therefore, in the diversified 
views of religious or political sects, which is hostile to the no- 
tion of a Supreme Governor of the universe. 

It is true, until very modern times, the popular mind was 
unaccustomed to meddle with the subject of religion. Now, it 
approaches that as well as every other interest belonging to 
man, and grapples with religious creeds with the same free- 
dom which it employs in attacking political opinions. The 
unlimited range of inquiry, subjects every institution to the 
most fearless and unscrupulous examination. Is there not 
danger, then, not that a passive indifference, but an universal 
unbelief, may seize upon the minds of men, and succeed in 
thoroughly rooting out the principle of religion % 

There are some things which it is not in the power of man 
to accomplish, although these things have to do with his own 
interests exclusively. He cannot alter the structure of the 
human understanding, nor extirpate the affections of the heart. 
In every estimate or conjecture which we may form of the des- 
tiny of our race, we are safe in reposing upon these as unde 



364 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



niable truths. We can make no certain calculation in regard 
to individuals, so as to say what their conduct will be uuder 
particular circumstances ; but with regard to the race of man- 
kind, we may predict with absolute certainty. We are obliged 
to believe that the religious sentiment will never be extin- 
guished upon the same, although not any higher, ground than 
that which convinces that insanity or idiocy will not be the 
lot of the human species, or that the private affections and 
desires, which have animated the heart since the first forma- 
tion of man to the present time, will never be eradicated. 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



365 



CHAPTER II. 

INSTITUTIONS FOR THE EDUCATION OF THE PEOPLE. 

The great use of popular education, in a political view, con- 
sists in its incapacitating the people for any other than free 
institutions. Education tames ambitious men, and presents 
new motives and a new theater of action. It trains the people 
to a due sense of their weight in society, gives them new habits, 
new modes of thinking, and a different style of manners. In 
this way the.y not only acquire a decided taste for such institu- 
tions — they become morally unable to adopt any other. When 
the great bulk of the population is uneducated, a few meu of 
ill-regulated ambition, banded together, may wield an irresist- 
ible influence in the community; but where popular instruc- 
tion is widely disseminated, the additional power which is im- 
parted to the mass acts as a perpetual counterpoise to this am- 
bition. If the man who craves after public distinction is well in- 
formed, and expert in debate, so also will be the sons of the peo- 
ple. The former may set himself about study ing the people, and 
may calculate upon success in proportion to his adroitness in 
moving their prejudices ; but the latter acquire an equal facility 
in diving into the depths of all his motives. Those qualities 
which were dangerous when confined to a few, will be of un- 
speakable advantage when dispersed among a very numerous 
body. Education, then, is a constituent part of the plan of 
free institutions. 

In some countries politicians who are bent upon their own 
aggrandizement, acquire an exaggerated notion of the import- 
ance of striking upon the imaginations of the people. But 
this is an instrument difficult to use where a system of popular 
instruction is introduced. Knowledge, information, habits of 
reflection, especially where these are employed about the daily 
business of life, act as a wonderful damper upon all flights of 
the imagination. Nothing is more amu>iug, and at the same 
time more instructive, than to witness the awkward behavior 



366 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



of some men of untaught or unteachable minds, in a country 
where the people have acquired an elevated position. They 
want to imitate the great men of other countries, but for want 
of acquaintance with the temper of the times, every step they 
take places them in a false position, and reveals difficulties 
which they are unable to surmount. They become entangled 
in the web they had woven for others. If they move onward, 
they perhaps make themselves amenable to the laws; if they 
falter and stumble, they are the subject of scorn ; if they make 
good their retreat, they are covered with ridicule. It is from 
constant experience of the unsuitableness of those arts of am- 
bition which were formerly so successful, that the active spirits 
in a democratic community are gradually inured to new modes 
of thinking and acting. They acquire a clearer insight into 
the scope and aim of the institutions under which they live. 
They strive to render themselves eminently great by being 
eminently useful. And as this opens in the paths of eloquence, 
learning, and every species of intellectual effort, an almost 
boundless field of ambition, the altered temper which they ac- 
quire communicates an influence to others. The example 
once set, is soon erected into the fashion, is incorporated into 
the national manners, and becomes the standard of conduct 
for succeeding generations. So true it is, that the diffusion 
of education both elevates the people and tames the ambition 
of public men. No man in the United States dreams of run- 
ning the career of Cromwell or Bonaparte. Intellectual dis- 
tinction, capacity for business, large and generous views of 
patriotism, are the aim of every one, even in those countries 
where the noise of this revolution is just beginning to be 
heard. Such statesman as Guizot, Brougham, and Lowndes, 
now rise up in society, and take the place of the Eichelieus, 
and Straffords, of former days. The power which it is neces- 
sary to confer upon public men is not so great as it was, be- 
cause the people are now able to do for themselves a great 
many things, which were once obliged to be devolved upon 
others; and the authority which is exercised by government is 
wonderfully tempered in practice, in consequence of the course 
of discipline which the minds of all public men have to pass 
through. 

This alteration in the structure of society, which is brought 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



367 



about solely by the elevation of the popular mind, is full of 
important consequences. As it sets bounds to the personal 
influence of ambitious men, it presents a natural obstacle to 
the introduction of monarchical or aristocratic institutions, 
and disposes all the artificial governments to imbibe some of 
the spirit and temper which belong to free institutions. In 
the early stages of society, the authority of a few men of com- 
manding character may be highly salutary, although that au- 
thority may not be strictly bounded. But the employment of 
this instrument ceases with the advancement of society, at least, 
where that advancement is general aud not confined to the 
superior classes. In other words, when popular instruction is 
diffused, the authority of government is abridged, because the 
people are then able to stand by themselves. 

It is no inconsiderable argument iu favor of a system of 
general' education, that it tends greatly to preserve the identity 
of the language among all classes of the population, and con- 
sequently to maintain civilization. Where no such system 
exists, in a country of only tolerable extent, the people of 
different districts very soon fall into the use of different dia- 
lects, which by and by become distinct languages. The sim- 
plest elements of education, the knowledge how to read and 
write, uphold the standard of the language ; and by so doing 
maintain the standard of the laws and manners. Newspapers 
which are the genuine fruit of education, exercise the same 
influence. The unexampled circulation which these journals 
have reached in the United States, is undoubtedly one reason 
why the uniformity of the written and spoken language is so 
well preserved. If then we do not confine our view to the 
present inhabited part of the United States ; but consider 
that all North America is destined to be peopled from the 
Anglo-Norman stock, the benefits resulting from a thoroughly 
diffused education are incalculable. The present territory of 
the union will easily cqntain one hundred and fifty millions of 
people ; and the use of a common tongue among this vast 
population will exert a mighty influence upon the progress of 
society. For as the difference of languages is oue of the 
greatest obstacles to the diffusion of civilization, the doing 
away with this difference will cause a greater amount cf civil- 
ization to bear upon the ruder and less cultivated portion of 



368 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book hi. 



this great commonwealth. And as the influence of America 
upon Europe will be prodigiously augmented, the nations of 
the old world will be brought more and more within the circle 
of American civilization. People who speak the same lan- 
guage, look upon each other in some sort as members of one 
family. Those who speak different languages are sometimes 
very little disposed to regard each other as fellow creatures. 
The easy communication and sympathy which the prevalence 
of one common dialect introduces, is singularly favorable to 
the spread of all sorts of improvement. The minds of Great 
Britain are now chiefly exerted for the people of Great Britain. 
Thojeof France and Germany for the pe >ple of those coun- 
tries. But if all Europe spoke one common tongue, the intel- 
lect of any one country would be an addition to the stock of 
general intelligence. If the people of the American States 
had spoken different languages, there would perhaps have 
been no union : at any rate the advance of knowledge and 
civilization would have been materially retarded. The influ- 
ence which has been exerted upon European society, in conse- 
quence of French, or English, the language of the two most 
enlightened nations of that continent, being spoken in all the 
gn-at capitals, is very perceptible to any oue whose attention 
has been drawn to the subject. More intelligence, and a 
greater amount of civilization, have been introduced into 
St. Petersburg!), and Uamburgh, Copenhagen, and Stockholm, 
Vienna and Berlin : and the effect has been felt, more or less, 
in the remotest provinces of those countries. But i' would be 
very difficult to calculate the amazing influence which would 
have been exerted, if all Europe had spoken one language. 

Before the American territory is peopled with one hundred 
and fifty millions, it will probably be divided into distinct con- 
federacies; and identity of the language will contribute pow- 
erfully to a good understanding among those separate com- 
munities. It is the maintenance of one civilization, not the 
maintenance of one union, which we are most deeply inter- 
ested in. Identity of language, in some degree takes the 
place of an actual equality among men. The Scottish high- 
landers and lowlanders were, until a very recent period, like 
two distinct nations inclosed within the same nation. The 
spread of the English language among both has broken down 



CHAP. II. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



369 



the barriers which separated them as completely as if they 
had been distinct orders of men. The laws, the manners, and 
the intelligence of the more cultivated districts, were quickly 
diffused among all, when all were enabled to understand each 
other. Nothing contributes so much to the action of mind 
upon mind, as placing men on an equality ; nothing so much 
to civilization, as this action of mind upon mind; and nothing 
so much to the maintenance of free institutions as the equal 
diffusion of civilization. 

Leibnitz conceived the idea of an universal language ; but 
he did not carry the thought further than to suggest the prac- 
ticability of a language which should be common to the 
learned. He did not venture to propose to himself the idea of 
all the nations of a great continent containing one or two 
hundred millions of people, possessing a language which should 
be the familiar dialect of all classes. * Nevertheless, it would 
be an achievement of infinitely greater importance to the pro- 
gress of the human understanding. Profound and inquisitive 
minds derive the materials upon which they work chiefly from 
the uulearned ; and the unlearned derive their incitements to 
exertion from the learned. The observation and analysis of 
the minds of other men is the foundation of much the greatest 
part of human philosophy ; and the broader the field of vis- 
ion, the more exact and comprehensive will be the results. 
One of the principal impediments to the progress of knowl- 
edge consists in the extensive prevalence of what may be 
termed class opinions, in the different systems of thought. 
These opinions were origiually taken up from a narrow view 
of human nature, and many of them are gradually discarded 
by the learned themselves ; but a great number are still pre- 
served, because they render philosophy a sealed book. If we 
compare a Chinese or Hindoo system of laws, or of ethical 
science with works of the same kind, which have come down 
to us from Greece and Eome ; and if we run a comparison 
between these last and similar productions of English or 
American origin, we shall be made aware of the wholesome 

* Leibnitz, in "Nouveaux Essais de l'entendement," B IV., ch. VI., 
hints at the possibility of inventing an universal lauguage. But in his 
letters to Mr. Oldenburgh, he contemplates only the construction of a 
philosophical language. 
24 



370 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



influence which has been exerted upon some of the most 
important human interests, by opening a wide field for obser- 
vation and inquiry. The attrition of the popular mind does 
not merely render a system of philosophy or of laws more 
level to the common apprehension ; it renders all human spec- 
ulation more solid, coherent, and comprehensive. 

Small and insignificant beginnings often give rise to import- 
ant consequences, and influence the destiny of generations 
through the longest lapse of time. The system of common 
school education, which originated in New England when the 
colony was a mere handful, has now spread over nearly all the 
American states; and has contributed more than any other 
cause to preserve the identity of the language, to advance civ- 
ilization, and to bind those republics together in a firm and 
beneficent union. When this system is introduced among a 
population of fifty or a hundred millions, it will present a 
spectacle from which the whole race of mankind will be able 
to derive instruction. 

It has been supposed that government has properly nothing 
to do with the education of the people; that it is an affair 
which concerns the private citizen exclusively, and does not 
fall within the province of the legislator. But the maxim, 
" laissez nous faire," must not be interpreted in such a way as 
to destroy its own value. The whole body of laws, the direct 
design of which is to promote the good government of the 
community, the civil, criminal and commercial codes, all inter- 
fere necessarily with the behavior of individuals; yet, it is 
admitted, tbat they do not lie within the range of the maxim. 
I do not know that any precise line can be drawn between 
those actions which affect the public weal, and those which 
have a relation to private persons only. For as no system of 
legislation can avoid interfering to some extent with the con- 
duct of individuals, so there is no scheme of private conduct 
but what may affect the whole community. It is not because 
there is any exact and definite distinction between the two 
classes of private and public actions, that government is 
bound to interfere in one instance, and yet to abstain in 
another. It depends upon who can most effectually and most 
advantageously, for both government and people, preside over 
the one and the other. 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



371 



Governments, iu many instauces, originated colleges, and 
other institutions of learning and benevolence. Government 
first set on foot newspapers. By anticipating the existence of 
these important instruments of science and information, the 
time was hastened when the people appropriated them to their 
own use. There are some subjects which fall under the super- 
intendence of government, in the early stages of society, 
which cease to belong to it when a people have risen up. And 
there are others, where the care exercised by government be- 
comes more intense, in proportion as free institutions take 
root. 

There is one sure test which may be applied to all such 
questions ; one, however, which is not capable of being em- 
ployed in any but a democratic republic. This test is afforded 
by the rule of the majority ; not the majority of to-day, or to- 
morrow, but the majority of a considerable series of years. 
We may be quite sure that if the people themselves agree that 
government shall undertake the management of a particular 
interest, and adhere to this agreement after long experience of 
its effects, the arrangement is a wise and salutary one. It is 
possible for the majority temporarily to oppress the minority. 
But it is a much more difficult matter than is generally sup- 
posed, for it to persist in so doing. It is impossible in a coun- 
try of free institutions, in a country where the electors num- 
ber three millions, to present any such prominent distinctions 
in the circumstances of different classes, as to insure the rule 
of a fixed majority, if it is disposed premeditatedly, and of set 
purpose, to run counter to the substantial interests of the mi- 
nority. Any such effort will forever terminate in converting 
the minority into the majority. It may frequently happen, 
that on the first proposition of a most wholesome and bene- 
ficial law, the minds of many men may be taken by surprise* 
and that it will require a good degree of reflection on their 
part to be convinced of its propriety. That the majority have- 
agreed to it; that is to say, that a body of individuals; no. 
way distinguishable in their habits and condition of life from 
the great body of the minority, have given their consent to a 
particular enactment, is strong " prima facie" evidence of its. 
reasonableness ; and if this enactment remains in the statute 
book for a considerable period,, it is almost conclusive evidence 



372 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



of its wisdom. I observe that at the present day, in New 
York, and in all of the New Eugland states but one, there are 
laws prohibiting the sale of ardent sptrits. One can hardly 
imagine a case where the interference of government with 
private conduct is more direct and imperative than it is here. 
But it is very difficult to conceive any case where private con- 
duct is capable of exercising a deeper and more extensive 
influence upon the public weal. These laws have been too 
recently passed to enable us to say with certainty whether 
they will stand. I am disposed to think that ultimately they 
will prevail ; that although there may be fluctuations of public 
opinion, leading to their alternate repeal and re-enactment, 
they will in the end conciliate the minds of the great bulk of 
the population, and bear down all opposition. 

The difficulty, then, of distinguishing in theory between 
those things which the civil magistrate should take under his 
jurisdiction, and those which should be left to the discretion 
of private individuals, is resolved in practice by the simple 
wle of the majority. Where government is truly the repre- 
sentative of the people, we can afford to trust it with the 
doing of many things, which under other circumstances it 
would be desirable to place beyond its reach. Where it is 
a self-existing authority, it is too prone to intermeddle with 
private conduct, it seeks to thrust itself into every corner of 
society, because its own influence is increased in proportion as 
the people are rendered dependent. But this is a mistake 
which can rarely be committed in a republic, where those who 
are affected by the laws are themselves the authors of the 
laws. • 

It is remarkable that while Mr. Hume is in favor of a strict 
-superintendence of religious interests by government, that he 
would leave every other department of instruction to the vol- 
untary and unassisted efforts of individuals. In America the 
rule has been entirely reversed. Tiiere, the people elaim the 
interposition of their state governments, in securing a system 
of popular instruction, while they deny the right or the utility 
of interfering in any degree with religion. And this system 
)has been attended with incalculable advantages to both govern- 
ment and people. It is the existeuce of an established church, 
which in England has opposed so many obstacles to the iutro- 



CHAP. II. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



373 



duction of a system of popular instruction. A fear has been 
constantly felt by episcopalians lest, in that course of training 
and discipline which the minds of youth undergo at school, 
opportunity might be taken to instil notions unfavorable to 
the doctrines of the church of England; while on the other 
hand dissenters of all denominations have taken a totally op- 
posite view, and have concluded that there was even greater 
probability, that principles adverse to their own particular 
creeds might be insinuated into the minds of their children. 
A system of common school education established in England, 
and headed by the ecclesiastical hierarchy, might have so 
many bad features as to counterbalance the good, of which it 
would be otherwise productive; while the same system in 
America, originated by representatives of the people and su- 
perintended by them, would be fraught with unmixed advan- 
tage. A country in which free institutions are sought to be 
perpetuated, presents a strong case for the interposition of 
the government in everything which concerns popular instruc- 
tion. The system of common school education is applied to 
the formation of the mind, at a period of life when it is too 
feeble to originate any scheme of mental discipline for itself. 
And the great object is so to train the youth of the country, 
that when they come to be men, they may render themselves 
useful members of the great commonwealth in which they live. 
And it is a consideration of great importance, that where the 
population of a country is well instructed, the interference of 
the legislator is unnecessary in a multitude of instances where 
it would otherwise be demanded. 

When education is widely diffused the whole population is 
introduced into active and useful life, at a much earlier period 
than could be the case, if the means of instruction were lim- 
ited, and difficult to be obtained. This necessarily constitutes 
an immense accession to the strength and resources of the 
state. The great body of the people then become not merely 
the bone and sinews of the community, they become its soul, 
and its vivifying principle. Lord Bacon, like Cicero, com- 
plains that men who have obtained a tolerably advanced age, 
are frequently withdrawn from public usefulness, when their 
influence and counsels, would be most profitable to the public. 
This great man would not have had so much reason to in- 



374 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



dulge in this lamentation if, instead of the brutish and ignor- 
ant population by which he was surrounded in the beginning 
of the seventeenth century, he had lived in the midst of an 
instructed people. In the United States, a very considerable 
part of the business of society falls under the management of 
young men. The liberal professions, the legislative assembles, 
all the branches of trade, of manufactures, and the mechanic 
arts, derive immense accessions from their exertions. And 
it is perhaps one reason why all these pursuits have caught so 
liberal a spirit, and are freed from the cumbrous forms and 
antiquated usages which hang around them in other coun- 
tries. The effect is similar to that which is produced by the 
substitution of free in the place of slave labor. General edu- 
cation imparts general freedom of thought. And this freedom 
of thought is the parent of vigorous exertion, of self-reliance, 
of that thorough sense of responsibility, which causes every 
one to walk alertly and yet cautiously over the difficult paths 
of life. 

Until recently, no one was eligible to the French house of 
deputies until he was forty. This fact sheds an abundance of 
light upon the social organization in France. The laws are a 
pretty sure index of the manners, and where we find the age 
of political majority raised so high, we may be very certain 
that the age of civil manhood is also high, and that both the 
minds and characters of individuals are slow in maturing. 
In some countries, the hour-glass of life is more than half run 
out before the faculties of men. can be made available and 
effective for any part of the business of society. At present, 
the age of admission into the house of deputies is thirty years, 
and contemporary with this alteration of the constitution, a 
great change took place in reference to popular education. 
Formerly, the government appropriated twenty-five thousand 
dollars for that purpose. At present, twenty-five millions are 
granted. More than forty-two thousand schools are main- 
tained by the state, the departments, and the cantons: while 
at the same time, the private schools have also been aug- 
mented. For although the laws are an index of the manners, 
yet in a country where a system of artificial institutions has ex- 
isted for a very long period, government may, notwithstanding, 
originate the most important improvements, and thus bring 



CHAP. II. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



375 



about a change of the manners themselves. The whole num- 
ber of pupils at school in France is very nearly three millions, 
and the cost of primary instruction alone is estimated at two 
and a half millions of dollars. 

In the United States, it is very common to see men, by the 
time they are thirty, already established in some useful and 
profitable employment. At that age we see them conducting 
with judgment and ability an extensive practice as lawyers, 
or physicians, or embarked in the most difficult branches of 
trade. It is evident that such a constitution of society must 
contribute materially to augment both the moral and physical 
resources of the community, and that it must be equally in- 
strumental in giving strength and solidity to the political in- 
stitutions. 

Those persons who are prone to look upon the dark side of 
human nature, and to magnify the licentiousness of the pres- 
ent age, would derive great instruction from looking into the 
interior of society, as it was only one hundred and fifty years 
ago, and that among some of the most enlightenad European 
states. The system of common, or parochial, schools was es- 
tablished in Scotland in 1696. Fletcher, of Saltoun, the cele- 
brated Scotch patriot, and a person eminently distinguished 
for soundness of judgment and purity of character, writing 
about this time, draws the following vivid picture of the gen- 
eral state of manners in that country : " There are at this day 
in Scotland (besides a great many poor families provided for 
by the church boxes, with others, who, by living on bad food, 
fall into various diseases), two hundred thousand people beg- 
ging from door to door. These are not only no way advan- 
tageous, but a very grievous burden to so poor a country. 
And though the number of them be perhaps double to what it 
was formerly, by reason of the present great distress ; yet in 
all times there have been about one hundred thousand of these 
vagabonds, who have lived without any regard or subjection 
to the laws of the land, or •even to those of God, and nature : 
fathers incestuously accompanying with their own daughters, 
the son with the mother, and the brother with the sister. No 
magistrate could ever discover, or be informed, which way one 
in a hundred of those wretches died, or ever that they were 
baptized. Many murders have been discovered among them, 



376 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book hi. 



and they are not only an unspeakable oppression to poor ten- 
ants (who, if they give not bread, or some kind of provision, 
to perhaps forty such villains in one day, are sure to be in- 
sulted by them), but they rob many poor people who live in 
houses distant from any neighborhood. In years of plenty, 
many thousands of them meet together in the mountains, 
where they feast and riot for many days, and at country wed- 
dings, markets, burials, and other like public occasions, they 
are to be seen, both men and women, perpetually drunk, curs- 
ing, blaspheming, and fighting together." 

This state of abject poverty and wild disorder cannot be at- 
tributed to the density of the population. Scotland, at the 
close of the seventeenth century, contained hardly a million of 
inhabitants. By the census of 1841, it contained more than two 
millions and a half. But at the former period, the Scotch 
were destitute of education ; destitute, therefore, of those 
moral capacities which could alone lay open to them the 
resources of nature. At present, they are among the best 
educated people in Europe ; and the condition of the country 
is totally changed from what it was when Fletcher wrote. In 
the place of a lawless band of marauders, traversing the coun 
try and inflicting all sorts of injuries upon unoffending people, 
we have, from one end of the country to the other, a shrewd, 
active, and industrious population ; the great bulk of whom 
possess a very reasonable share of the comforts of life, and 
live in a state of strict subordination to the laws. Doubtless, 
we may find very great defects in the social organization of 
any country ; and the disposition to magnify these may even 
sometimes be a favorable symptom of the general soundness 
of society. It may indicate that a very high standard of ex- 
cellence is constantly held up by every one, which, although 
it can never lead to the attainment of all which is conceivable, 
yet is the only means of reaching so much as is actually attain- 
able. But to make any comparison between the moral and 
industrial state of Scotland, in the seventeenth century, and 
its condition since the system of parochial schools has been 
matured and borne its fruit, would be to forego the use of our 
faculties. We might as well institute a comparison between 
the annals of bedlam and those of New England or Ohio. 

What will be the effect, ultimately, of placing men so much 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



377 



on an equality as the general diffusion of knowledge supposes, 
is an inquiry at once novel and interesting. The great quali- 
ties which we admire, in the eminent men who take a lead in 
public affairs, are in very great part formed by their power of 
acting upon other men. But this power depends for its exercise 
very much on the structure of society. A state which contains 
a handful of intelligent and sagacious individuals, all the rest 
of society being condemned to a state of intellectual inferiority, 
presents the most favorable opportunity for the development 
of those qualities. Men who are surrounded by the ignorant, 
feel a stimulus to exertion, in one walk of ambition at any 
rate, the force of which it is difficult to calculate. Under such 
circumstances, they are inspired with a wonderful degree of 
assurance, resolution, and self-command : mighty agents in 
counterfeiting as well as in making great qualities. But if we 
contrive to scatter knowledge, and so to multiply the number 
of independent thinkers among the people themselves, much 
of this artificial stimulus to an artificial greatness is taken 
away. It becomes then a much more difficult matter to man- 
age men ; less easy to control their wills, so as to render them 
subservient to the designs of ambitious leaders. In such a 
condition of society, the aspiring man sees a great number of 
sagacious individuals, not merely in the sphere in which he 
moves, but interposed between himself and the people, and in 
the ranks of the people themselves. His power is by little and 
little frittered away, until at last it becomes doubtful whether 
there will any longer be opportunity for the display of those 
qualities which have hitherto attracted so large a share of the 
public attention. 

And admitting that this will be the consequence, it is clear 
that society will be infinitely the gainer ; not merely because 
qualities which depend so much for their formation on the ig- 
norance of other men, must necessarily contain a great deal 
that is factitious and superficial ; but because the community 
as a body will be rendered wiser and stronger, and the political 
institutions be made firmer and more durable. 

There is one inconvenience attending society when knowl- 
edge is widely circulated ; and the principle of equality conse- 
quently gains strength — the feeling of envy is apt to pervade 
all classes of men. Every one seems to forget, that although 



378 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book hi, 



the dispersion of knowledge does in truth break down many 
of the distinctions which before existed between individuals, 
that it cannot destroy the natural inequality which the God of 
nature has stamped upon different minds. Every one, how- 
ever, fancies that he is capable of every thing. All want to be 
great, and yet are too indolent to make themselves wise. And 
as chagrin and disappointment must follow the indulgence of 
such vain hopes and pretensions, men instantly fall into the 
deplorable vice of detracting from the merit of those who have 
run before them in the attainment of reputation. If they can- 
not reach the object of their ambition, the next most desirable 
thing is to prevent others from obtaining it. In a barbarous 
or half-civilized community men slay each other to make room 
for themselves. In a highly-civilized one, they rarely go fur- 
ther than to wish the death of each other. 

But although this is to a considerable extent the character 
of every society where knowledge is diffused and people are 
placed pretty much on a footing of equality ; yet it is attended 
with so many compensations, that a wise man is not at liberty 
to desire a change. We must avail ourselves of every spring 
of improvement which is planted in human nature. If we 
cannot rely solely upon the noble ambition of excellence for its 
own sake, we may very reasonably tolerate some other quali- 
ties of an inferior kind, provided they are productive of effects 
any way similar. Our nature is so admirably adjusted, that 
even our defects are often converted into instruments for our 
improvement. But there is this very important distinction to 
be made : that we intend our virtues shall redound to the good 
of society, whereas we intend no such thing with regard to our 
vices. These are made to produce results without our know- 
ing it, through the interposition of an overruling providence. 
Eoot out envy from the human bosom, and we take away one 
of the strongest incentives to all sorts of exertion, from the 
lowest, the mere acquisition of wealth, to the highest, the per- 
fectionment of our moral and intellectual nature. 

In surveying the extensive provision w T hich is made in 
America for the promotion of popular instruction, the inquiry 
may very naturally be made: What is to be the result of the 
plan if it is not turned to some account, reaching beyond the 
years of puberty ? The system of common school education 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



379 



gives the ability to read and write ; but the possession of this 
ability is one thing, and the application of it after leaving 
school is another and very different thing. In other words, 
even admitting that the whole youth of the country are taught 
those important arts, what will it profit them if, after the ac- 
quisition is made, it is not employed in getting knowledge. 
The ability to read and write is merely mechanical — it is only 
a means to the attainment of an end. If the means is pos- 
sessed, and yet the end totally neglected, in what respect is 
society better off than when this mechanical art was entirely 
withheld from the general population. 

I imagine, however, that when the matter is considered at- 
tentively, the deficiencies of society will be found to be much 
less than this view supposes, and I have purposely placed it 
in the strongest possible light. It is true, when we take a 
survey of some of the best educated communities, the United 
States and Holland for example, we are struck with the un- 
intellectual character of the masses. But the fault is in our- 
selves : we compare the condition of these masses with that of 
the most cultivated class, instead of comparing it with the 
condition of those masses prior to the diffusion of education. 
In pursuing the first course, we are disappointed, perhaps even 
shocked ; in adopting the last, we will find that our most san- 
guine expectations are realized. Reading and reflection, unless 
carried beyond a certain point, cannot be productive of what 
we term striking results ; and yet when employed short of this 
point, they may have a decidedly intellectual influence. There 
is in reality much more read by the people than is generally 
supposed, only it is not visible to those who live in the full 
blaze of knowledge. The single fact, that a greater number 
of newspapers are circulated in the United States than in the 
whole of continental Europe, is pretty good evidence that the 
Americans turn the ability to read to some practical purpose. 
The reading of the daily journals is an occupation to which the 
most accomplished minds are addicted : for they contain, with 
all their demerits, a great part of the history of the times in 
which we live. They do not contain this information in the 
gross, as is the case in works professedly historical ; but they 
present the transaction and events of the day minutely, and 
in detail ; and although the narrative is on this account les 



380 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



imposing, it is doubtful whether it is not more instructive 
This species of reading, although it produces in some a disrel- 
ish for any other study, has a contrary effect with others. It 
whets the appetite for knowledge, opens up the connection 
between those things which are contained in the newspapers 
and the ten thousand other things which can only be alluded 
to by them. A great many persons among the mechanical, 
agricultural, and commercial classes, are thus beguiled into 
habits of reading, who would never otherwise have taken up 
a book. Newspapers first created a general taste for reading ; 
and reading is of great assistance in grasping and analyzing 
the information which newspapers contain. The profitable use 
which may be made of these journals, is in exact proportion 
to the general stock of knowledge which individuals possess. 
Facts related by them, which a casual observer would pass 
over as signifying nothing, may with minds of reading and 
reflection possess a great deal of meaning, and conduct to very 
important conclusions. 

The system of popular education has many negative advan- 
tages, which are not inferior to the positive benefits which it 
bestows. The training of the hearts of youth is very properly 
confided to the domestic circle ; but intellectual occupation, 
the acquisition of the mere rudiments of learning, exercises a 
decidedly moral influence upon the character. If it only to 
some extent shuts out the temptation to vice, it prevents the 
lower appetites from gaining the mastery. 

In Sismondi's History of the Italian Eepublics (iv. 193), we 
have some insight into the state of popular education in the 
republic of Florence, in the fourteenth century. The city 
then contained one hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants. 
In the territory beyond the city, there were about seven hun- 
dred thousand. From eight to ten thousand children learned 
to read, twelve hundred learned arithmetic, five or six hundred 
logic, or grammar. In Scotland, at the present day, one-elev- 
enth of the whole population go to school. In New England 
and New York, this proportion is about one-fourth, or one- 
fifth; in other words, three-fourths of the children, between 
five and fifteen years of age, go to school. The proportion 
then in Florence, which was greatly advanced beyond any of 
the other Italian states, in this, as well as in every other re- 



CHAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



381 



spect, was surprisingly small. It was only about the eightieth 
part of the population. It is exceedingly small, even when 
compared with England, where one in nineteen, or with Ire- 
land, where one in thirty-two, of the whole population are trained 
to the first rudiments of education. 

The moral influence exerted upon society in these different 
communities, has been in about the same proportion as the 
diffusion of education. It was less in Florence than in Ire- 
land, less in Ireland than in England, and in England less 
than in Scotland, New England, or New York. The register 
of crimes shows this fact very conclusively. The number of 
criminals in Ireland is about one in five hundred ; in England, 
one in nine hundred and sixty ; in Scotland, New Eugland, 
and New York, out of the city, one in about five thou- 
sand. 

We have no material from which to form any exact calcula- 
tion as to Florence. But we do know that it contained an 
exceedingly disorderly population, and that it was a scene of 
the most sanguinary civil feuds, during the period to which 
I have referred. The riots of an American city are a mere 
episode in the history of the country; those of Florence were 
barbarous in the extreme, were fomented by the chief citi- 
zens, and were of so frequent occurrence as to constitute the 
principal part of its annals. 

There is still a difficulty, however, connected with this sub- 
ject, which demands attention. All the people cannot be 
expected to be educated. Even admitting that, with the 
munificent provision which is made for the establishment 
of schools in New England, New York, and Ohio, all the 
males receive the first rudiments of learning, it would be 
going too far to suppose that all will get much further than 
those rudiments, and become well informed. We will prob- 
ably have in those sections, and ultimately throughout the 
whole country, a better instructed people than have ever 
existed. But very many will still remain wrapped up in 
ignorance. The number of the electors then will be much 
greater than that of the educated. Whereas, the theory of 
democratic institutions seems to require that all who exercise 
the right of suffrage should be at least tolerably instructed; 
in other words, the administration of public affairs in Amer- 



382 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book. hi. 



ica, both in the federal and state govern m en ts, gives rise 
to a multitude of questions of great magnitude and com- 
plexity, which cannot be understandingly apprehended with- 
out information and reflection. Nevertheless, the people 
are either directly or indirectly invested with the whole 
power of deciding upon these questions ; and yet, numbers 
are very ignorant in relation to them. How are we to recon- 
cile this p]ain discrepancy between the demand for knowl- 
edge on the one hand, and the lack of it on the other? The 
difficulty is startling at first view. It is one which has con- 
stantly exercised the minds of the most thoughtful and ju- 
dicious men in the United States. 

In the first place, then, it must be recollected that a like 
analogy runs through every department of human affairs; 
that political knowledge is like every other kind of knowl- 
edge ; that it is subject to the same rules which apply to all 
other human interests ; and that if a slight observation does 
disclose the strangest incongruities, greater attention will 
reveal a system of compensations, by which the mischief is in 
a great degree neutralized. In the whole circle of human 
interests, there is hardly an instance where theory and prac- 
tice are united to any great extent. It is one of the most 
striking and beneficent provisions in the constitution of our 
nature, that the combination of the two is not always nec- 
essary, in order to act efficiently and correctly ; that on the 
contrary, our conduct may be determined with the utmost 
promptitude and regularity, without our being able to analyze 
our thoughts ; that is, without our comprehending the process 
by which we are impelled to act. The commonest laborers 
will skilfully apply all the mechanical powers, without under- 
standing their nature. 

Millions of men are engaged in the processes of manu- 
factures, without any insight into the world of knowledge 
of chemistry and natural philosophy, which their occupations 
seem to imply. Many who successfully and skilfully pursue 
the professions of law and medicine, are unacquainted with 
the philosophy of those sciences. There are no subjects upon 
which a greater amount of thought and learning have been 
employed, than upon theology and ethics; yet the religious 
and the moral are to be found among the unlearned, as well 



CAAP. II.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



383 



as among the enlightened. The analogy may be traced 
through every interest appertaining to human life. Indeed, 
if the ability to act were dependent upon knowledge of the 
machinery by means of which we act, our condition would 
be more deplorable than that of the brutes. 

It is worthy of observation, also, that on all the important 
questions which agitate a civilized community, a wide differ- 
ence of opinion exists among the enlightened, as well as 
among the uninstructed. The utmost which we can rea- 
sonably demand is, that public affairs should be conducted 
by those whose vision is the keenest and most comprehen- 
sive, and whose intentions are the most upright. 

But even such minds are constantly ranged upon different 
sides. Perhaps the difficulty is more apparent than real. 
It may be that it is the egotism and narrow views of pol- 
iticians, which give an importance to questions to which 
they are not entitled, and that those who are uninstructed, 
by being less ambitious, and consequently more impartial, 
serve to moderate the ultra views of politicians of all parties. 
A great nation may do great injustice to itself, by imagining 
that its substantial interests are dependent upon the exist- 
ence of a central bank, or the enactment of a high tariff. 
Public men feel as if they must have a wide field opened, 
on which to make a display of their abilities, and such ques- 
tions present the opportunity, although the advancement 
of the country in riches and power would not be sensibly 
affected one way or the other, whether such schemes were 
adopted or discarded. 

But although the difficulties which beset free institutions 
are great, it is plain that there is no way of elevating the 
great mass of the population but by disseminating the ben- 
efits of education. If the mischiefs complained of are not 
cured, they are at any rate greatly abridged. The question is 
not, whether the social organization, and the political institu- 
tions of a representative republic, are preferable to such a 
picture as our imaginations may draw; but whether they 
are not the best which we can reasonably hope to attain, 
whether they do not present a state of society infinitely better 
than that of Spain, Italy, or Russia; better even than that 



384 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



which exists in Great Britain, where the laws and the man- 
ners have a fairer aspect, and a more wholesome influence 
than in any other European state, only because they ap- 
proach nearer to the model which the American common- 
wealth has set up. 



CHAP. III. J 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



385 



CHAPTER III. 

MILITARY INSTITUTIONS. 

There is no fact in the history of our race more striking 
than its addiction to military pursuits. From the earliest 
period, and in every form of society, whether barbarous or 
civilized, war has been one of the habitual occupations of 
mankind. It might almost be supposed that it auswered 
some necessary want of our nature, and that the propensities 
which lead to it were as much entitled to be considered a part 
of the original constitution of man, as any of those which 
rule over his ordinary actions. 

The least insight into human nature, apprises us of the great 
variety of faculties which are planted in our constitution. 
Qualities which tend to raise the species to a condition almost 
above humanity, are immediately associated with others which 
sink it to a level with the brutes. And it is plain that if the 
former were not capable of exerting a control over the last, 
the human mind would be a mere jumble of contradictory 
properties, each acting with the force of a separate instinct, 
and giving rise to actions the most incoherent and unmeaning 
imaginable. 

It is true, war is sometimes productive of beneficial effects. 
In the absence of any more powerful stimulants, it scourges 
the lazy elements of society, brings to light some dormant 
spring of improvement, and gives a totally different direction 
to human affairs from what was intended. If our bad quali- 
ties are not controlled by ourselves, a higher power has or- 
dained that they shall be instrumental of good in some other 
way. By rendering it recessary for individuals to act under 
circumstances of the greatest peril, and amid the most de- 
plorable calamities which can fall upon society, war calls out 
some of the noblest qualities of our nature; inspiring some 
with a lofty patriotism and self-denial, and training others ta 
25 



386 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book hi. 



humility, resignation, and fortitude, If conquering Rome bad 
not penetrated a great part of Europe, and if the hordes from 
the northern and central part of that continent had not in 
turn penetrated Italy, it may be doubted whether civilization 
would have made much progress, up to the present day, be- 
yond the confines of the Italian peninsula. Christianity and 
Eoman civilization lie at the foundation of our modern civili- 
zation ; and I do not see how it would have been possible to 
diffuse one or the other, if there had not been that complete 
mingling of races consequent upon the Roman conquests, and 
the irruptions of the barbarians. I believe, that if it had not 
beeu for those events, the inhabitants of Britain, France, 
Germany and Prussia, would have continued, down to the 
present time, the same wandering and barbarous tribes which 
they were in the times of Caesar and Tacitus. That there | 
was no spring of improvement within, is demonstrated by the 
fact that they had remained in a stationary condition for more j 
tthan two thousand years. If then there had not been some j 
-powerful causes set in motion from without, there is every 
reason to believe, that those countries which have made such I 
prodigious advances in knowledge, and in all the arts of life, 
would still be inhabited by an ignorant and barbarous race. 

The subsequent wars which have prevailed among the Eu- 1 
ropean states, have probably contributed to produce an effect 
of a similar character. Doubtless the guilty individuals who 
fomented them were only animated by a desire to gratify their i 
selfish ambition ; and they have been subservient to ends 
which they neither desired or contemplated. I will only take 
as an example the wars which scourged Europe, from the 
commencement of the French revolution to the general peace 
in 1815. Assuredly no one can take a survey of European 
society before and since that period, without noticing the im- 
mense progress which has been made in knowledge, industry 
and the arts, and the corresponding improvement which the 
social and political organization has undergone in that quarter 
•of the globe. 

The influence which these wars have exerted is similar to 
•the effect produced in the United States by breaking down the 
distinction of ranks. Civilization has circulated more freely 
in consequence of the last, and the wars of the French revo- 



CHAP. III.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



387 



lution, by coutributiug to break down the barriers which sep- 
arated the European states from each other, have brought the 
inhabitants of all to a more intimate acquaintance and con- 
nection than existed before. The intercourse of all kinds 
which now takes place, political, commercial, and personal, 
between different communities, is greater than it once was be- 
tween the people of the same country. Civilization is conta- 
gious; the manners of a cultivated people exercise an amazing 
influence upon others which are less advanced, and the Euro- 
pean nations, which were once distinguished by the greatest 
inequalities in this respect, are gradually assuming the char- 
acter of one great commonwealth of civilized states. 

These views conduct to others equally important. Histori- 
cal works which, for the most part, contain a narrative of for- 
eign and intestine wars, would have been doubly instructive 
if their authors had constantly drawn the attention of their 
readers to the difference of races. I imagine it would be 
found that this difference lay at the bottom of nearly all those 
wars. China, whose population is greater than that of all 
Europe, has, with very inconsiderable exceptions, enjoyed pro- 
found tranquillity for more than two hundred years. During 
the same period, the European people of the same country, 
as well as of different countries, have been tearing each other 
to pieces. Let us take as an example a single historical work: 
Sisinondi's History of the Italian Kepublics. What a flood of 
light would this profound and eloquent writer have shed upon 
the times of which he treats, if he had throughout the who'e 
work directed the attention of his readers to the original di- 
versity of races, and to the very slow process by which they 
were fused into each other. The mixture of Goths, Vandals, 
Lombards, Normans, and Saracens., with the Italian popula- 
tion, produced a total disorganization of society, and made 
men of the same district, and even living within the walls of 
the same city, implacable enemies. 1 have no reference now 
to the times immediately succeeding the invasion of those 
hordes; for then it is plain enough, without the historian 
pointing to it, that the incongruous assemblage of peoples of 
different civilization was a fruitful cause of disorders. I al- 
allude to periods much later, to the twelfth, thirteenth, and 
fourteenth centuries, when the descendants of all these vari 



388 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III- 



ous races inhabited Italy, and when, notwithstanding inter- 
marriages between them, the original lineaments of character 
had not disappeared. The same view might be taken of the 
intestine troubles of Spain, France, and Great Britain. We 
know that it is not much more than one hundred and fifty 
years since the Saxon and Norman population, in this last 
couutry, could be considered as completely amalgamated ; 
and that the amalgamation of the Gaelic population of the 
highlands of Scotland with that of the rest of the country, 
dates from a much more recent period. 

This suggests another important view, which is, that in pro- 
portion as the various races have been melted into each other 
in the same country; in proportion as they have tended to 
form one homogeneous population, the character of war be- 
came gradually changed. The different people no longer in- 
habited the same country, but belonged to different countries. 
Hence in very modern times, instead of domestic wars we 
have had foreign wars. The extraordinary uniformity of char- 
acter in the population of the United States, has undoubtedly 
been one great cause of the unprecedented tranquillity it has 
enjoyed at home. It is not merely that this sameness of char- 
acter presents fewer points of actual difference, but it has led 
to a thorough intercourse between men of all classes, and be- 
tween those inhabiting different parts of the country. 

No nation is composed of a greater variety of races than the 
United States. But the English type is predominant above all 
others. The emigrants who flock thither are from the most civil- 
ized parts of Europe. Although for the most part they belong 
to the inferior classes of society, their minds are more ductile 
on thai very account — more capable of receiving impressions 
from the manners and institutions which surround them. 
They behold a high standard of civilization existing in the 
country. Their natural instincts impel them to imitate it: 
since in no other way can they compete with the native inhab 
itants in the acquisition of comfort and independence. The 
older emigrants adhere to their own language. Alter a cer- 
tain period of life, it is difficult and irksome in the extreme to 
learn a new language. But their desceudents do not find the 
same difficulty. Their dispositions and organs are more plia- 
ble. The intercourse between all parts of the population is so 



chap, in.] OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 389 

great, that they insensibly acquire the language of the coun- 
try, and learn to regard that of their ancestors as a foreign 
tongue, which is now both useless aud unfashionable. This 
obstacle being surmounted, intermarriages take place. Their 
transactions of business lie with the natives, much more than 
with their own countrymen. American courts are open to them , 
when they have any difficulties to adjust. They must con- 
verse with their lawyers in English, in order to make them- 
selves understood. Their interests, no less than a desire so 
natural to the human heart, to imitate those who have wealth, 
power, and intelligence, conspire to weld them thoroughly to 
the institutions among which they live. So that in process of 
time the English type promises to be not merely the predom- 
inant but universal one. 

The distinction of race may be regarded in a two fold aspect; 
as it arises from physical or moral causes. When we speak of 
difference of race, we generally have reference to some variety 
of conformation and habits which has been wrought by physi- 
cal causes. But there may be a difference superinduced by 
moral causes. For instance, independently of the varieties 
which have been noticed by philosophical writers, the political 
institutions of different countries may differ so widely from 
each other in their structure and influence, as to render nations 
who have sprung from the same stock, as alien to each other 
as if they had emerged from totally distinct tribes. Aud so 
also, the institutions of the same country may act so unequally 
upon different parts of the population as to create great diver- 
sity of habits, manners, and modes of tninking; and so to es- 
trange from each other men inhabiting the same country. It 
is in the power of governments then to create artificial races 
among their own population. Monarchical and aristocratical 
institutions, together with an imposing ecclesiastical hierarchy, 
may contribute to perpetuate distinctions long after the origi- 
nal lineaments of race have disappeared. So long as this is 
the case, the seeds of intestine war exist; and whatever fo- 
ments intestine war, acts in one way or another as a prevo- 
cative to foreign war. Soon after the breaking out of the 
French revolution, the party in the ascendancy waged war 
against some of the European governments, in order to pre- 
vent their interference in re-establishing the odious privileges 



390 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



which divided one part of French society from another. And 
when strong government was establshed, war was still waged in 
order to keep down the insubordination of men of all parties 
at home. 

There is one part of the policy of the American government 
which is entitled to great praise. I allude to the laws for the 
naturalization of foreigners. I will not stop to inquire into 
the propriety of a little shorter or a little longer residence, in 
order to entitle to citizenship. The main design of the plan, 
which is that of a speedy naturalization of foreigners, is marked 
by the soundest wisdom. These laws have been regarded as 
something entirely new in the history of governments. And 
it is true that they do differ materially from the laws which 
exist in the European states. But they are pretty much the 
same as those which prevailed prior to the establishment of 
American independence. Similar laws were passed by the 
mother country, for the purpose of encouraging emigration to 
a country which had a vast extent of fertile land, and too few 
inhabitants to cultivate it. America, although its population 
is now greater than that of mauy of the kingdoms of Europe, 
has still an abundance of unoccupied land. The same reasons, 
therefore, which lead to the original enactment of these laws 
would prompt to their continuance. 

But without denying that these laws offer strong induce- 
ments to emigration, it is doubtful whether the emigration 
would not be nearly as great without them. The immediate 
temptation to the inhabitants of densely-peopled countries to 
emigrate, arises from the prospect of bettering their condition. 
The desire to become proprietors when before they were serfs, 
to acquire comfort and independence, and so to raise their off- 
spring reputably, when otherwise they would have been sunk 
low in the scale of society; not to mention the absolute crav- 
ings of want among great numbers, which make them satisfied 
with merely wages sufficient to uphold life; all these motives 
conspire to bring great crowds of people to the new world. 
Although they might not be admitted to the possession of 
political privileges for fifteen or twenty years after their arri- 
val, they would enjoy freedom of religion, and a larger share 
of civil liberty than falls to the lot of any European people. 

But it is of infinite importance to assimilate as speedily as 



CHAP. III.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



391 



possible all parts of the American population : to melt down 
all the different races into one race; and thus to produce the 
greatest harmony and agreement between the manners and 
the political institutions. This is a more powerful and con- 
vincing reason for the enactment of the naturalization laws of 
the United States, than would be the mere desire to encourage 
emigration. Examine all history from the earliest records 
down to the preseni time, and it will be found that the pres- 
ence of different tribes in the same country, and yet separated 
from each other by unequal privileges, and consequently by 
dissimilar habits, has been the most fruitful source of in- 
ternal dissensions and civil disturbances. We know that the 
Roman patricians and plebeians were not originally different 
classes of the same people; but that they were in reality two 
different people: that they assumed the relation of different 
classes, only in consequence of the laws which kept them asun- 
der after they were incorporated into one commonwealth: aud 
that Rome enjoyed no tranquillity until the laws were repeal- 
ed. When this was effected the two people were easily melted 
into one, and a character of unity and solidity was imparted 
to the political institutions. If you traverse Italy, or Ger- 
many, you will find vestages everywhere of the same policy 
which guided Rome in its infancy. A close examination would 
probably disclose many traces still unobliterated of similar 
laws growing out of himilar circumstances, in almost all the 
large kingdoms of Europe. It was therefore a fine idea of the 
American government to begin at the beginning — to take 
speedy and effectual measures for fusing into one the diverse 
tribes of which its population would be composed. A mon- 
archy, or aristocracy, may suppose that it is greatly for its in- 
terest to impose severe restrictions upon its foreign popula- 
tion, or even to make aliens of one part of its native popula- 
tion, as has been too often the case. But a republic is deeply 
concerned in smoothing as far as practicable ail the inequali- 
ties and unevennesses which obstruct the intercourse of so- 
ciety ; that so the political institutions may be adapted to the 
whole people, and the whole people be made heartily inter- 
ested in upholding those institutions. In 1708, an act was 
passed by the English parliament for the naturalization of all 
protestant aliens. The reasons urged were, that it would en- 



392 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book iii- 



courage industry, improve trade and manufactures, and repair 
the waste of the population by war. But one of the motives 
was to counterbalance the power of the landed aristocracy. 
The objection was, that the new citizens would retain a fond- 
ness for their native country, and, in time of war, act as spies 
and enemies: that they would insiuuate themselves into places 
of trust and profit, become members of parliament, and by fre- 
quent intermarriages, effect the extinction of the English race. 
The act was repealed 1711. In 1751, another bill was intro- 
duced, but failed. It was streuuously supported by Win. Pitt, 
(Chatham), and other enlightened members, but fell through, 
in consequence of the same narrow and bigotted views which 
were urged in 1708. 

Great numbers of people who now emigrate to America are 
catholics, and fears are entertained lest they should exercise 
an untoward influence upon the rest of the population. But 
these fears are without foundation. The institutions of the 
United States will protestantize the Koman catholic religion, 
for protestantism is a vigorous protest agaiust both religious 
and political superstition, and whatever contributes to check 
the one, contributes equally to check the other. Maryland 
was settled by catholics, yet itis certain that the protestant pop- 
ulation have exerted a much more powerful influence upon them 
than they have exerted upon the protestants. I can observe 
no difference in the manners and modes of thinking of the peo- 
ple of this state from what I observe in other states. So true 
it is, that in everything which addresses itself to the reason, 
the true policy of government consists in permitting the utmost 
latitude of thought, and the freest exerci e of conscience. To 
pursue an opposite course, would be to till a country with dis- 
sensions, perhaps civil war, which has hitherto enjoyed unpar- 
alleled tranquillity. 

The risk which America has to encounter, in the absence of 
those causes which ordinarily produce heartburning and jeal- 
ousies in other communities, arises from the institution of 
slavery. There is no danger ot any serious and lasting con- 
test between the white and black race. But it is possible, tor 
the white man of the north to fight the white man of the ^outh, 
through the black race. Such is the perversity of humau na- 
ture, that it will sometimes create differences where nature 



chap, nr.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



393 



has made resemblances, and a diseased imagination may con- 
vert the white man of the south into a being of different race, 
in order to enable him of the north to indulge in a misguided 
fanaticism. 

Bat the security against this danger is after all very great. 
It consists in the substantial identity of the white population 
of the north and south, which, although a gust of feeling may 
occasionally obscure the horizon, will force itself upon the at- 
tention of every one, and cement the two sections of the coun- 
try, until the natural period of their separation has arrived. 
A certain degree of zeal, of even enthusiasm, is always nec- 
essary to set the miud a-thinking, and to enable it to appre- 
hend the bearings and consequences of any important meas- 
ure. It must never be supposed, because passion and feelings 
mingle in public disputes, that they are going to run away 
with the understandings of people. That passion and feeling 
only act as a healthful stimulus to the faculties, and by pro- 
ducing greater intensity of thought, may ultimately conduct 
to conclusions very different, perhaps totally the reverse of 
those which were at first seized. There is a species of intelli- 
gence, which is bottomed upon good sense and a sound judg- 
ment, which is eminently unfavorable to an over indulgence 
in fanaticism. And there are no people who as a body are 
more distinguished for this same intelligence, than are the peo- 
ple of the north. 

The reader may suppose that I have lost sight of the sub- 
ject on which this chapter professes to treat. Such is not the 
case however. Rut it is my desire to present a different view 
from what is usually taken. In other words, it is no part of 
my design to describe either the military institutions of any 
particular country, or to make inquiry what system would 
most conduce to promote the power and aggrandizemeut of a 
nation. My object is the reverse : it is to examine very briefly, 
those causes which have hitherto given rise to foreign and 
civil wars, and more especially to consider the train of events, 
and that constitution of society, which at the present day 
give promise of checking the propensity to war. For although 
war may have its uses, yet these uses may in the progress of 
time be exhausted. Not that there is any probability that 
wars will absolutely cease to be waged by nations, but the 



394 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



tendency of public opinion everywhere is such as to dis- 
countenance the practice. Not only do the interests of com- 
munities impel them in an opposite direction, but what is of 
infinitely more consequence, the understanding, the convic- 
tion that such is the case, is continually gaining strength. 
Foreign wars, so far as they are occasioned by the unequal 
civilization of different states, may become less frequent, when 
civilization is more evenly diffused ; not because the power of 
different nations will then be more equally balanced, for the 
reverse may be the case; but because a more equal civiliza- 
tion in all, produces a superior civilization in each, and a 
high state of civilization, such at any rate as exists in our 
modern world, is absolutely incompatible with the habitual 
pursuit of war. So also civil wars may become much less 
frequent, in consequence of the more thorough civilization 
which will exist among the population of the same state. For 
then the interests of different parts of the state will somehow 
or other be found to be better adjusted to each other, and will 
more seldom be brought into violent conflict. 

If hitherto appeals to the humanity and good sense of na- 
tions have been insufficient to put an end to the atrocious 
practice of war, a train of causes may be set in operation by 
the Governor of the universe, which will accomplish the same 
end. The people of Europe may at least be made to see, and to 
feel, that their interests are identified with peace; and as the 
control of popular opinion upon the actions of the government 
is continually gaining ground, the same sense of interest 
which disinclines the people to war, may disable rulers from 
making it. 

When these causes have been in operation for a considera- 
ble period, when the wisdom which is learned from experience 
has had time to produce some sensible alteration in the habits 
of thinking prevalent among men, the moral sense will be 
powerfully and effectually awakened. It is amazing with 
what facility the human mind will reconcile itself to customs 
the most abhorrent to reason, and the most revolting to hu- 
manity ; and it is equally surprising how easily it may be 
weaned from them, when new circumstances have arisen to 
produce a clear judgment and a sound state of feeling. For 
in what respect does the killing in war — in war which is not 



CHAP. III. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



395 



absolutely iu self-defense — differ from private murder, except 
tbat iu the former case a great multitude of people have 
leagued together to do the deed, and by so doing, have organ- 
ized among themselves a species of public opinion, in order to 
drown remorse and to absolve from condemnation. 

An almost total exemption from war is one of the memora- 
ble things in the history of the American republic. One war, 
of short duration, in a period of nearly seventy years, is a 
phenomenon without a parallel in the history of European 
society.* It is true, America is removed to a distance from 
the great theater of modern wars. But the vast countries of 
South America are near at hand, and present an arena for war- 
fare much more tempting to that sort of cupidity, which for- 
merly impelled both people and governments to fall upon the 
weak and defenseless, in order to aggrandize themselves* 
Eome, when it made war upon all the nations of Italy, was a 
more unequal match for them, than the United States would 
be against all South America. But Rome and the United 
States have been placed in very different periods of the 
world. 

But whatever may be the causes which have produced so 
marked and so general a disinclination to war among the 
American people, it was of the greatest importance that the 
experiment of peace, as a part of the permanent policy of a 
state, should be fairly made. The experiment has proved that 
an abstinence from military pursuits, is not only consistent 
with the highest civilization, the greatest national power, and 
the most enduring prosperity, but that it contributes directly 
and powerfully to the furtherance of these ends. It has 
proved that the passion for war bears no resemblance to any 
one of those natural instincts which are plauted in the con- 
stitution of man for the purpose of stirring up and quickening 
his higher faculties, and that it may be easily counteracted by 
principles which possess much greater force. 

The true secret of the steady adherence to a pacific policy 
on the part of America, is to be found in the inconsistency of 
any other policy with the maintenance of free institutions. 
The moment it was determined to establish a republican form 



* The Mexican war lias occurred since this was written. 



39G 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



of government, it became necessary to throw away military pur- 
suits. For war is the most effectual instrument which can be 
employed to undermine public liberty. 

But even though we should admit that the policy pursued 
by the United States is attributable to the peculiar position in 
which it was placed, the example may be of unspeakable im- 
portance in its influence upon other nations. An experiment 
made under one set of circumstances may suffice to show that 
it may be made under all circumstances. For the circum- 
stances are a mere accident, while the experiment itself is con- 
formable to the interests of every civilized nation on the 
globe. 

A new state of things seems to be growiug up in the Euro- 
pean world; entirely variant from the old, and although it 
does not entitle us to predict the total destruction of this last, 
yet promises to make some approach to it, and distinctly indi- 
cates that the tendency to peace is one of the predominant 
characteristics of the present age. 

First, then, I observe that since the peace of Paris, which 
closed the unexampled wars of the French revolution, princes 
have made efforts such as have never before been known to 
cultivate a good understanding among themselves. It is im- 
material whether this combination has been formed for the 
purpose of checking the progress of the democratic principle, so 
visible everywhere. Princes very often intend to do one thiug ; 
and the course they are compelled to pursue insures the accom- 
plishment of another and totally different thing. The fact 
that such a concert does exist is inconsistent with the con- 
tinual wars which once prevailed in that part of the world. 
And if it is adhered to for another thirty years, by the prin- 
cipal European powers, it may eventuate in very important 
consequences. It has created a counter revolution to the 
French revolution : and this counter revolution only stands in 
need of time, in order to render it successful. For in the sec- 
ond place, the democratic principle instead of losing, is con- 
stantly gaining ground. Crowned heads are afraid of their 
subjects, and combine in order to secure their own authority; 
and the steady growth of industry and popular intelligence, 
which is the consequence of this pacific policy, is all the time 
adding to the moral power of the people, aud placing in their 



CHAP. III.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



397 



hands, instead of in those of their rulers, the meaus by which 
alone peace can ever become the permanent policy of Europe. 
For, in the third place, the prodigious impetus which has been 
given to everydepartmeut of industry within the last thirty 
years, is directly calculated to render the middle class the pre- 
dominant class insociety. When it has fairly become so, the 
disinclination to war will be nearly as manifest as it is in the 
United States; not, perhaps, because the people of one period 
are intrinsically better than those of another, but because, in 
the vehement and obstinate pursuit of their own interests, 
they have become insensibly inured to habits of peace, and 
realize what the mass of an European population was not for- 
merly in a situation to do, the importance of making peace 
the fundamental policy of the state. 

When the embargo was laid by the American republic in 
1806, it was for the first time autnoritatively announced to the 
world that war is inconsistent with the prosperity of a free 
state. And when in 1833 the industrious classes in France 
protested against war with the United States, it was for the 
first time authoritatively announced by an European people, 
that it is inconsistent with the interests of even a monarch- 
ical state. Military pursuits then are irreconcilable with the 
highest degree of national prosperity. War contributes to 
alter the relative distribution of both property and power. 
It takes property from the industrious classes in order to 
bestow it upon a very different order of men : or what is 
worse, it causes the destruction of wealth without any retri- 
bution whatever. I know of but one instance which seems to 
form an exception to this view. During the wars which grew 
out of the French revolution, Great Britain did not appear to 
Buffer materially. On the contrary, there were evident symp- 
toms of a regular advance in wealth. Every department of 
industry was alive and active. The maritime ascendency of 
the nation enabled it to open new channels of commerce, and 
to protect its vessels in almost every quarter of the globe. 
This is the favorable view of the subject. But the true ques- 
tion is, what would have been the condition of the country, if 
the expenses of the war had been defrayed by taxes collected 
within the year? Instead of this being done, a debt has 
been created so overwhelming, that no one dare believe that 



398 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



it will ever be paid ; and which, whether it be paid or not, 
will equally postpone the disasters of the war to a period far 
beyond its termination. For if, on the one hand, a national 
bankruptcy will dry up the income of great multitudes of peo- 
ple ; on the other, the reimbursement of the debt will trench 
so largely upon capital, as to shake to its foundation the com- 
mercial prosperity of the country. When either of these 
events occur, we will be able to form an adequate idea of the 
influence of war in disturbing the natural distribution of 
property. 

Similar views are applicable to the question of the distri- 
bution of power. Property and power are invariably con- 
nected. Whatever affects the disposition of the first, affects 
that of the last; whether as between different classes of the 
people, or as between the people and the government. War, 
more than all other circumstances put together, assists to 
condense power in the hands of a few. Its effect upon the 
distribution of power is more immediate and decisive, than it 
is upon property. 

It is not difficult to follow the process by which this revolu- 
tion is effected. Impending danger, at home or from abroad, 
may alarm the mass of peaceful citizens, but it inspires the 
ambitious with resolution and boldness. If the crisis is at all 
doubtful, if either civil or foreign war seems to be brooding, 
a vague sense of patriotism persuades people that it is right 
to confer ample power upon government to beat down the 
evil, and a large military force is raised. But the use of this 
instrument, where liberty is not most solidly guarded, is apt 
to give an exorbitant authority to the government. The im- 
aginations ot the people are intoxicated by the pomp and cir- 
cumstance which are introduced upon the theater of public 
affairs. They lend aclisproportioned importance to those who 
are the principal actors, and are led, step by step, to intrust 
a larger and larger authority to public rulers. The army be- 
comes an end instead of a means; war is provoked when peace 
might easily have been maintained. And whether in conse- 
quence of the altered modes of thinking which every one then 
adopts as to the general tendency of war, or through the in- 
strumentality of the army itself, the way is prepared, if not for 
the conquest of the people, at any rate for greatly abridging 
their liberties. 



CHAP. III.] 



OF FBEE INSTITUTIONS. 



399 



It is not surprising, therefore, that the great mass of the 
American people should feel such an aversion to war. There 
is no instance to be found, where this sentiment has tieen any 
thing like so general or so strong. The nation no sooner goes 
to war, than it sets about framing expedients by which to ob- 
tain peace. It is not from fear of the enemy, for no country 
possesses both the "material" and "personnel" of war to a 
greater extent. But the nation fears itself, and would put 
away the temptation to acquire a dangerous greatness. Hith- 
erto the disinclination to military pursuits has been so great 
atnoug all parties, that it is not easy to form an estimate of 
the consequences, if there should be anything like a general 
chauge in the tone of public sentiment. Military men have 
been bred in civil pursuits, or have lived during the greater 
part of their lives in a state of profound peace. Their char- 
acter consequently partakes more of that of the citizen than 
of the soldier. II they are introduced into political life, they 
fiud themselves entangled in the complicated network of our 
free institutions, and the last thing which a soldier president 
dreams of, is to employ the army for the purpose of perpetuat- 
ing his power. But let public opinion run for any considera- 
ble period in an opposite direction, let military pursuits be- 
come more popular than trade, agriculture and manufactures, 
and I, for one, would desire to hide myself from contemplat- 
ing the countless evils, which would be the consequence. For 
as no nation ever was endowed with such a capacity for doing 
good : none has ever been endowed with such a capacity for 
inflicting evil. 

It is impossible to foretell with any accuracy, what will be 
the issue of those immense political assemblages which are 
constantly held in everv part of the United States. The effect 
may be to discipline two vast armies, which will ultimately 
take up arms and tear each other in pieces. The experience 
which we have had of domestic violence in some of our large 
cities, proves that it would not be an impossible thing to em- 
broil parties to such a degree as to occasion the most disas- 
trous civil wars. On the other hand, the people may become 
so familiarized to peaceful assemblages, and so habituated to 
reflect upon the wide-spread ruin which would be the conse- 
quence of a resort to arms, that the greatest political excite- 



400 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



inent may always terminate, as it has hitherto done, in merely 
affecting the ballot box. On the issue of this experiment are 
suspended the destinies of this great republic. 

The disposition to reflection, is one of the remarkable char- 
acteristics of the men of the present day. Two circumstances 
have contributed to awaken it. 1st. The prodigious develop- 
ment of industry. Commerce, agriculture and manufactures 
are now conducted on so immense a scale, and interest so 
great a number of minds, that they have to a great extent 
superseded the practice of war. 2d. The men of the present 
day have more individuality, if I may so express myself, than 
at any former period. The first circumstance supplies materials 
on which reflection may exercise itself. The second develops 
the faculty itself. For by rendeiing individuals more depend- 
ent upon themselves and less dependent upon a class, they 
are thrown upon their own resources, and exercise more cau- 
tion, prudence and judgment in their behavior. And when 
this habit has been established in private life, it is very natur- 
ally and even necessarily transferred to the. scene of public 
affairs. 

When I was a young man, I have heard older persons relate, 
that in their time it was expected that at all dinner parties the 
guests should not only be of good cheer, but that they should 
drink until they were merrily drunk. The custom had been of 
time immemorial, and not to conform to it, was considered as 
an indication of a poor-spirited fellow. This practice is now 
unknown among any thing like good company. It is banished 
to the night cellars and other haunts of the dissipated. I also 
observed that a great many other changes had taken place in 
the manners; that for ten duels not more than one was fought 
now. I concluded that there must be some general cause for 
so great a change, and I traced it to the strong habit of reflec- 
tion which had giown up. I found that the alteration in the 
manners showed itself in public life also; and I will only re- 
fer to one or two examples. At the time when the struggle 
between the Union and the nullification parties was at its 
height, when the exacerbation of feelings was so intense, that 
the least circumstance, a look or a gesture might lead to a 
sanguinary conflict, the leaders of those parties entered into 
a formal agreement that not only should no wanton insult be 



CHAP. III.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



401 



offered by any individual of one party to any individual of the 
other, but that the most active and vigilant precaution should 
be taken to prevent any occurrence which might by possibility 
lead to it. During the extreme excitement of feeling which 
preceded the presidential elections in Tennessee, iu 1844, a 
similar agreement was entered into by the two parties in Nash- 
ville. 

Nothing is more common than to see politicians pursue a 
Hue of conduct which they intend shall advance their own in- 
fluence and authority, and which, nevertheless, terminates iu 
setting bounds to both. What the leaders of the parties often 
design to effect, by these political meetings, is to promote 
their own selfih aims : to obtain office immediately, or to pre- 
pare the way for their elevation at the first favorable moment. 
If endowed with ambition, resolution and self-command, they 
may be disposed to wink at the most offensive conduct on the 
part of their adherents, in order to bring matters to extremi- 
ties. By embroiling the two parties in a civil dissension, they 
would render themselves more necessary to their respective 
partisans. But the course which they are insensibly impelled 
to pursue, once they have fairly entered upon the career of pub- 
lic debate, is calculated to give an entirely new turn to affairs. 
Civil war rarely makes its way through the medium of public 
debate. Discussion and reasoning on such an extended scale 
presupposes a wide diffusion of information, and a very general 
disposition to reflection among the great mass of the pe.ople, 
both of which are greatly assisted by listening to these de- 
bates. The independent condition in which the bulk of the 
population are placed, their educated habits, and the strong 
masculine sense which the two conjoined produce, impart to 
them a strong appetite for public discussion. When the plan 
ot holding these conventions was first introduced, the public 
mind seized upon it with avidity, as something which it had 
long been in search of. For nothing presents so imposing and 
animating a spectacle as do these assemblages, since they 
bring into play a living instead of a merely fictitious sympa- 
thy. The love of strong sensation is an universal trait in the 
human character; and it finds vent in this way. Hence politi- 
cal assemblages may be said to constitute the amusements of 
the American people. The crowds who attend them desire to, 
26 



402 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



bear public affairs talked over aud reasoned about. Aud the 
leaders of parties are compelled to follow this bent of their 
disposition. However incompetent a great number of the 
speakers may be, their ambition is at any rate directed into a 
new channel. They strive to make display of their informa- 
tion, to show their acquaintance with the political history of 
the country, to grapple with the most difficult problems of 
legislation. Every step they take only raises up fresh obsta- 
cles in the way of civil war. An intellectual cast, in spite of 
themselves, is given to the whole machinery of parties ; and 
instead of those dark conspiracies and acts of desperate vio- 
lence which have been so common in other countries, the 
efforts of these politicians simply terminate in curbing their 
own ambition, and in making the people more deeply sensible 
than ever of the deplorable consequences of civil insubordina- 
tion. The European kings raised the privileges of the towns, 
in order to use them in bridling the power of the nobility. The 
»result was, that the towns succeeded in checking the power of 
both kings and nobility. 

It is one great advantage of these meetings, that they bring 
the country and the town population into contact and associa- 
tion with each other. Political conventions, which were once 
held only in large cities, are now equally common in the agri- 
cultural districts. The meeting may take place in the county 
town ; but vast numbers from the country flock to it. I have 
known twenty, thirty, fifty thousand people assembled on these 
occasions. Now the rural population are the natural balance 
of the city population. In other countries, in const queuce of 
the want of combination among the former, and their destitu- 
tion of the means of instruction, the inhabitants of rhe towns 
have had things all their own way. But in the United States, 
the means of instruction are imparted to all parts of the popu- 
lation ; and political conventions afford the mosi ttvorable 
opportunity for concert and united efforts. 

The military institutions of the United States stand upon a 
different footing from what they do in Europe. In the Eu- 
ropean states an army is kept up, ostensibly to provide against 
the contingency of foreign war, but with the furthei 'design of 
maintaining the authority of government at home. That which 
is the principal end among the nations of the old world, is not 



CFiAI*. III.] 



OF FKEE INSTITUTIONS. 



403 



even a subordinate end in America. The government of the 
United States relies upon the people themselves for the pres- 
ervation of order. Aud that this reliance has not been mis- 
placed, an experience of nearly seventy years amply testifies. 

This very remarkable difference between the military insti- 
tutions of these nations is the natural and necessary conse- 
quence of the difference in their civil institutions. As in the 
United States the government is the workmanship of the 
people, by the people is it most naturally preserved : but as 
in the old world it is a sort of self-existing institution, it is 
driven to rely upon its own resources for the maintenance of 
its authority. The European princes complain that obedience 
to the laws cannot be insured, unless they are placed in pos- 
session of an imposing military force. And how can it be 
otherwise, when the laws are neither made by the people, nor 
for the people. In Itally and Spain, when a murder has been 
committed, persons who are spectators of the deed flee in- 
stantly, in order that their testimony, if possible, may not be 
used against the criminal. So detestable in their eyes is the 
whole apparatus of government, that they involuntarily shrink 
from lending assistance in the detection or condemnation of 
the criminal. And the same feeling seizes every one, on occa- 
sion of those civil disorders which are infractions of the law 
upon a much larger scale. The army is the king's, not the 
people's ; and let the king take care of himself, seems to be 
the language of the spectators. 

In the United States an insurrection against the laws, in 
which a majority of the people should be embarked, is au 
event which cannot take place. In the European states, it has 
frequently occurred : and would happen still oftener, if the few 
did not grasp a weapon of powerful efficacy in repressing 
popular grievances. In the United States the militia, which 
is only a collection of the citizens, constitutes the reliance of 
government in suppressing disturbances, whenever the ordin- 
ary police is not sufficient for the purpose. 

The difficulty of creating a militia in the European states, 
arises from the extreme repugnance of those governments to 
permit the people to have arms. The permission, wherever it 
exists, is regarded in the light of a privilege, and is accompa- 
nied with the most odious restrictions. The celebrated statute 



404 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



of William and Mary, generally known as the bill of rights, 
allows persons "to have arms for their defense, suitable to 
their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law." 
The words which qualify the privilege are provokingly am- 
biguous ; and were doubtless intended to be so, in order to 
wait a more favorable opportunity for asserting the full au- 
thority of government. Accordingly, the statute of George 
III, c. 1, and 2, authorizes justices of the peace to seize arms, 
whenever they believe them to be in possession of persons for 
dangerous purposes. 

Now one can conceive of a militia to whom arms were never 
intrusted, except when they were actually called into service, 
but it would be a militia without a soul. The single circum- 
stance that the American government feels no jealousy what- 
ever, as to the carrying of arms by private individuals, sheds 
a flood of light upon both the civil and military institutions of 
the country. In truth, there is no such institution as a militia, 
in the proper signification of the term, in any European state. 
It is the offspring of free goverment, and can only exist in 
conjunction with it. In Great Britain, by an act passed in the 
reign of George II, a certain number of the inhabitants, selected 
by ballot, were to be organized as a inilkia for successive terms 
of three years. They were to be annually called out, trained, 
and disciplined for a certain number of days, and the officers 
to be appointed among the lords, lieutenants of counties, and 
the principal landholders. But this force was only intended 
as auxiliary to the regular army, and the whole scheme has 
been long since abandoned. The plan of training and disci- 
plining the whole adult population, in peace as well as in war, 
has never been entertained except in the United States. The 
national guard of France approaches the nearest to it. In 
theory, it is composed of the entire adult male population ; but 
in practice it is otherwise. The disinclination of the great 
majority of the lower classes to leave the employments on 
which they depend for subsistence, has established a sort of 
dispensation for them from this service: so that the national 
guard rather resembles the uniform companies, than the ordi- 
nary militia of the United States. It is very much the same 
in Great Britain. The militia there simply means the yeo- 
manry, a body of men organized in each county, but selected 



CHAP. III.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



405 



from among those who are known to he well affected to the 
government. The election of their own officers by the national 
guard has not grown out of the revolution. The practice was 
introduced by Louis XI. 

As is often the case, where what was once a privilege has 
become the common property of all, the people in some of the 
American states appear to set very little value upon their 
character as soldiers. Public opinion appears to have under- 
gone a very great change with regard to militia duty. In 
Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont, compulsory drills became 
so unpopular, that they were at length abolished. In Massa- 
chusetts, the sum of fifty thousand dollars is annually appro- 
priated to any number of the militia, not exceeding ten thou- 
sand, for voluntary duty a certain number of days in every 
year. In Maine, the militia system is retained by continued 
enrollment of all who would be bound at her call to come forth 
for the support of the laws, or the defense of the soil. In Ver- 
mont, the laws requiring militia drills have been repealed, and 
in their place has been substituted an enrollment similar to 
that for jury purposes, of all who under the old system would 
have been liable to militia service. The militia system is re- 
tained in these states as the only effective military force, but 
the frequent mustering deducted so much time from the civil 
pursuits of the people, that it has been dispensed with. They 
only who compose the substantial power of the commonwealth, 
can afford to abstain from continual display of it. 



406 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book hi 



CHAP TEE IV. 

INSTITUTION OF THE PRESS. 

The press is a component part of the machinery of free 
government. There would be an inconsistency, then, in argu- 
ing whether it should be free. It is the organ of public opin- 
ion, and the great office which it performs^s to effect a distri- 
bution of power throughout the community. It accomplishes 
this purpose by distributing knowledge, and diffusing a com- 
mon sympathy among the great mass of the population. 
Knowledge of some. sort or other all men must act upon in 
the ordinary affairs of life, in order to render their exertions 
fruitful of any result. Political society, which connects men 
together while living in the most distant parts of an extensive 
country, is in need of a still wider range of information. It 
would be correct, therefore, to say that the freedom of the 
press was to knowledge, what the abolition of primogeniture 
was to property : the one diffuses knowledge, as the other dif- 
fuses property. 

If we inquire, why in most countries so much power is con- 
centrated in the hands of government, the answer is, plainly, 
that knowledge is condensed in the same proportion. If we 
could suppose it to be uniformly diffused, government would 
cease to be a power : it would become a mere agency. For 
although it would be necessary to confide exclusive trusts to 
the public magistrates, in order to conduct the joint interests 
of society, yet the extent and activity of public opinion would 
give control to the power out of the government. This is an 
extreme case ; and an extreme case is the most proper to illus- 
trate the intermediate degrees, where the shades of difference 
are so minute as to run into one another. 

If, in a state where representative government was estab- 
lished, we should suppose the press to be suddenly annihilated, 
the political institutions would not long preserve their char- 
acter. As there would be no superintending control anywhere, 



chap, iv.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



407 



and no acquaintance with what was transacted in public life, 
the affairs of state would soon be involved in the deepest mys- 
tery. Knowledge would be confined to the men who were the 
chief actors upon the stage of public life, and the very neces- 
sary authority which had been conferred upon them, in order 
to further the public welfare, would be converted into a mere 
engine of power. Usurpation would be heaped upon usurpa- 
tion. Society would at first be a scene of infinite confusion. 
During this period, there would be many violent struggles be- 
tween liberty and power. But as a state of disorder can never 
be the permanent condition of any commuuity, the contest 
would terminate in the consolidation of power. And this 
vantage-ground once obtained, the population would easily be 
molded so as even to co-operate in carryiug out the designs of 
the governing authority. 

If the press were extinguished, the great principle on which 
representative government hinges, the responsibility of public 
agents to the people, would be lost from society; except in 
those few instances where the duties to be performed were 
confined within so narrow a ciicle as to render them the sub- 
ject of as direct supervision as the affairs of private life. The 
parish and the township officer would continue to be watched 
and controlled, until the revolution I have described estab- 
lished a system of universal centralization, aud wrested the 
power of electing even those offiers from the people. 

These views afford a sufficiently clear illustration of the 
truth of the observation, that the principal function which the 
press performs in a political view, is to equalize power through- 
out all parts of the community. 

The power which opinions exert upon society, is in direct 
proportion to the intrinsic value they possess, aud to the pub 
licity which they acquire. Both these circumstances are af- 
fected by the condition of the press, which gives impulse to 
thought, and free circulation to opinions. The action of mind 
upon mind, sharpens the faculties and kindles enthusiasm : 
and the extent to which an opinion prevails, indicates the 
number of persons whom it interests, and the degree of con- 
cert which is established among them. A thought, wrapped 
up in the bosoms of a few individuals, can never acquire im- 
portance ; but when it engages the sympathy of a great mul- 



408 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III, 



titude, it becomes more than a thought: it is then a new 
power added to public opinion. 

What we term public opinion, is not the opinion of any one 
set of men, or of any particular party, to the exclusion of all 
others. It is the combined result of a great number of differ- 
ing opinions. Some portion of truth often adheres to views 
and speculations which are apparently the most unreasonable, 
and it is the true side which they present, that goes to swell 
and to make up the sum of public opinion. Not that this is 
always the case — not that it is the case in any particular 
instance — but the tendency is constantly in that direction. 

Very important consequences follow from this in a political 
point of view. The mixture of so mauy opinions, causing 
light to be shed upon each, contributes to moderate the tone 
of party spirit. However irreconcilable the views of parties 
may appear to be, a free communication cannot be established 
between them without producing a visible influence of each 
upon all. The press, in its efforts to widen the breach, and to 
make one opinion predominant, is compelled to make all opin- 
ions known, and creates the very process by which all are 
sought to be rectified. The free exposition of the views of 
parties constitutes a sort of lesser experience, which super- 
sedes the necessity of actual experiment as a means of testing 
the utilty of each. The public administration is prevented 
from running rapidly from one extreme to another, and in 
spite of the machinations of all sorts of parties, the people 
are insensibly drawn to the defense and adoption of wiser and 
more wholesome measures. Political contentious, in a mon- 
archy or aristocracy, are like thot:e personal rencounters in 
which one party is beaten to the ground. But the war of 
opinions is not conducted after this manner, for there the 
weaker side often rises from the conflict with redoubled 
strength. 

Opinions may be even absolutely absurd and preposterous, 
and yet may contain a sort of negative truth. A system of 
religious belief, founded upon the grossest superstition, may 
simply signify to the men of other sects, that their practices 
are totally at war with the pure doctrines which they profess 
to teach. So it is said that in some parts of the United States 
individuals are to be found who have a predeliction for mon- 



CHAP. IV.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



409 



archical government. Suck fanciful notions cannot put out 
the light of the nineteenth century ; but they may read a very 
instructive lesson to the men of all parties. They may signify 
to many who espouse free institutions: "Your conduct is in- 
consistent with the noble sentiments you profess to admire. 
Your designs are the most selfish and unpatriotic imaginable; 
and you would leave no stone unturned in order to compass 
them. If this were not so, our opinions could not stand up 
for a moment. In America, at least, they would never have 
gaiued entrance into a single bosom." Thus the existence of 
error often leads to a clearer sight of the truth, and the wide 
dissemination which the press gives to opinions, increases the 
intensity of the light by which all parties are enabled to see 
their sentiments reflected. 

The facility with which opinions are promulgated, might 
seem to be unfavorable to stability in the public councils. 
Aud if it were so, it would be preferable to the complete des- 
potism of one opinion over all others. But all change, which 
is the result of liberal inquiry, invariably leads to stability, 
for this never consists in the inflexible pursuit of one line of 
policy, but in listening to suggestions from all quarters, and 
causing the public administration to rest upon the widest 
foundation possible. Certain it is, that although this may 
never be the design of those who stand at the head ot public 
affairs ; yes in a democratic republic, the existence of the 
press, some how or other, insures that it shall sooner or later 
be brought about. 

In France during the reign of the Bourbons, and in England 
in that of the Tudors, one set of opinions ruled the state, and 
it was ruled with a rod of iron. In America, where one party 
has never been able to succeed to the extent of an extreme 
opinion, the public admistration, although wearing occasion- 
ally the appearance of fickleness, has in the main preserved a 
character of remarkable consistency. It has been made firm 
only at the cost of being enlightened. 

The press may then be regarded as an extension or amplifi- 
cation of the pr nciples of representation. It reflects the 
opinions of all classes as completely as do the deputies of the 
people. The difference consists in this, that it has the ability 
to influence, without that of compelling. And there is this 



410 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



advantage attending it, that it is in constant activity before 
the public mind, and does not like the legislative body speak 
only periodically to the people. Checks in government, as I 
have before remarked, are of two kinds : positive and indirect. 
The European states afford instances enough of the first : the 
American republic exhibits a great example of the second. 
Public opinion is the great preventive check of civil society, 
aud wherever it is firmly established, the necessity of a re- 
course to the system of positive checks is to the same extent 
diminished. 

When Cecil, the celebrated minister of Elizabeth, estab- 
lished the first newspaper in England, he little thought that 
he was creating a powerful counterpoise to that throue of 
which he was an idolator. To disseminate information with 
regard to the movements of the Spanish armada, and thus 
to assist the country in making a vigorous and concerted 
resistance to a foreign enemy, was his design. The most 
exaggerated accounts were circulated with regard to the 
Spanish armament, terror was spread among the inhabitants, 
and Lord Burleigh, who had reflected maturely upon the 
moral influence which the press was calculated to exert, 
fell upon this expedient as a certain means of relieving 
the public mind from anxiety, and inspiring it with_ reso- 
lution. The journal which he called into being, diffused in- 
formation far and wide, corrected the misrepresentations 
which w 7 ere afloat, and produced union and combination 
among all parts of the population. But the plan has resulted 
in a vast and complicated system, by which the right of the 
people are protected from invasion by their own government. 
A new engine was created, which has contributed materially 
to effect all the great changes which have since taken place 
in favor of civil liberty. In 1821, there were twenty-four 
millions of newspapers annually sold in Great Britain. In 
1827, there were twenty-seven millions circulated in the Uni- 
ted States. 

The process by which this great revolution has been brought 
about is very obvious. The press has given a voice to an 
immensely numerous class of the population, who before com- 
posed a mere lifeless and inert body, but who now contribute 
essentially to the formation of what we term public opinion. 



CHAP. IV. ] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



411 



A single newspaper may be very barren and uninteresting; 
but the sum of all the information which is in this way brought 
to bear upon the public mind is incalculable. What we stand 
in need of, is information, and not merely the result of infor- 
mation. The great mass of mankind acquire knowledge with 
surprising facility, when it is communicated in detail. Facts 
thus presented have a distinctness which gives them an easy 
admission to the mind, and the conclusions which are deduced, 
are both more comprehensive and more practical. The saga- 
cious and inquisitive spirit of very obscure men in the inferior 
walks of life, frequently stirs the public mind on questions of 
the greatest interest to society. Such persons often suggest 
hints and anticipate improvements which men of cultivated 
understandings, and more intent upon past history than upon 
the character and genius of their own age, would not have 
had the boldness to adopt. Perhaps it would not be too much 
to affirm, that almost all the great revolutions in human af- 
fairs may be traced to this source. The wealthy and educa- 
ted, having attained the goal of their ambition, have nothing 
further to desire. Their views and exertions are confined to 
their own order. If such is the case with the men who occupy 
a lower position in society, if they also are intent upon ad- 
vancing their own interests, we at any rate make sure, when 
activity is imparted to them, that all orders of men in the 
state shall be taken care of. But to give activity to the great 
classes of society, is in effect to connect them together, to form 
substantially one class, and to create a system of opinions and 
inteiests which shall be common to the whole population. 
Accordingly in the United States, men of all conditions are 
found associated in endeavors to extend education, to pro- 
mote public improvements of every kind, and above all to fur- 
ther the interests of religion and morality. The great advan- 
tage which t-he towns formerly possessed over the country, 
consisted in their superior intelligence, and greater ability to 
combine for any public purpose. But the dispersion of knowl- 
edge by means of the public journals, has placed the city and 
the rural population on nearly the same footing; — another 
example of the influence of the press in' producing an equal 
distribution of both knowledge and power, throughout the 
community. 



412 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



The freedom of religion, of suffrage, and of the press, which 
has been introduced into some countries, was brought about 
by the very reasonable complaints of men who occupied an 
inferior position in society. The learned and the educated 
consulted their books, interrogated history: they paused, they 
doubted, they refused, until at last public opinion grew to be 
too strong. Suddenly, a great change was effected in the po- 
litical institutions, and as government was thencelorward 
made to stand upon a broader foundation than before, and to 
interest all classes in its preservation, those who had predicted 
that the most fatal consequences would follow from such inno- 
vations, were surprised to see their calculations falsified, and 
to find that every interest which pertained to society had ac- 
quired additional stability. 

The political press in the United States has a different char- 
acter from what it has anywhere else. As there are no privi- 
leged classes, it is emphatically the organ of popular opinion. 
Society is divided into parties, but they are all parties of the 
people. The moment the people drew to themselves the whole 
political power, public disputes began to wear a new aspect. 
They ceased to be the feuds of distinct orders of men, and be- 
came the quarrels of members of one of the same family. 
And it is needless to add, that this was not calculated to les- 
sen the acrimony of political dissensions; on the contrary, it 
has greatly increased it. But there is this compensation for 
the mischief: that instead of the terrific assaults of two hos- 
tile combatants upon one another, the power of the press is 
broken up into small fragments, and we have only a war of 
skirmishes. 

The journals of no country surpass those of the United States 
in ribaldry and abuse. But a great part of what we term pub- 
lic discontent, is in reality only private discontent in disguise. 
Our private troubles we do not care to divulge, because hardly 
any one can take an interest in them; they are deposited 
among the secrets of the human heart. But the burden is 
too great, and every one endeavors to find out some circuitous 
means of giving vent to them. As scon, therefore, as the ex- 
citing topics of political controversy begin to agitate the pub- 
lic, the fiery elements of the character are seen to burst forth. 
All those private discontents which originated in envy, per- 



CHAP. IV. ] 



OP FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



413 



soual animosity, neighborhood bickerings, the finding one's 
self placed in a false position to the rest of society, iu fortune, 
reputation, or understanding, immediately disclose themselves, 
and give a bitterness aud vulgarity to public disputes which 
do not properly belong to them. Men throw the mantle of 
politics over their faces, and fight each other in masks. The 
consequence of this state of things is, that private character 
and personal conduct of almost every kind, are the subject of 
attack, beyond anything which is known elsewhere. 

So long as legislators are reduced to the necessity of govern- 
ing by general rules, society must in part be regulated by the 
rival passions and propensities of individuals. They who nar- 
rowly scan American society may believe that it is in danger 
of being universally overrun by backbiting; and what in its 
vulgar form is party politics, but backbiting reduced to sys- 
tem? 

But this melancholy infirmity, like may other defects, is de- 
signed to have a salutary influence. In private life it assumes 
the character of a regulative principle, by which, in the absence 
of any better corrective, men succeed in keeping each other 
in order. Nor is its influence in public less conspicuous ; for 
there also it contributes to put every one upon his good be- 
havior. If the American journals were exclusively the organs 
of the refined and educated, their tone would undoubtedly be 
more elevated. But it must be recollected that the ground 
work of the human character is pretty much the same in all 
classes. People living in polished society have passions and 
propensities as well as the common people ; only in the former 
case they are not put forth with so much nakedness. It may 
then be inquired, whether it is not one capital object of ail in- 
stitutions, whether in private or public life, to draw a veil over 
the bad side of human nature, so as to hide from vii j w the sel- 
fishness and deformities of the character. And the answer is 
plain: such is the object, wherever the concealment does not 
have the effect of protecting from censure and rebuke the vices 
which are in disguise. 

As all the parties which exist in the American republic ori- 
ginate among the people, and are essentially popular parties, 
it follows that the press is a censorship over the people; aud 
yet a censorship created by the people. There would, conse- 



4U 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



quently be no meaning in the office of a censor appointed by 
the government. That institution is superseded by the very 
nature of the American press. Where a censorship is estab- 
lished by the political authority of the state, it is applied to 
restrain one class of publications only. No one ever heard, in 
a monarchical or aristouratical government, of any attempt to 
forbid the circulation of writings which were calculated to in- 
crease the influence of the prince and nobility. The utmost 
indulgence is extended to them ; while a rigorous control is 
exercised over every appeal in behalf of popular rights. Popu- 
lar licentiousness is bridled ; but there is no restraint upon 
the licentiousness of men in power. There is but one way of 
remedying the defect, and that is by causing the press itself 
to perform the office of censor; in other words, to grant such 
absolute freedom to all the political journals, that each shall 
be active and interested in detecting the misrepresentations 
and impostures of the others. There is a real and formidable 
censorship of the press in America, but the institution is in 
and not out of the press. The consequence is, that the efforts 
of all parties are more vehement and untiring, and yet more 
harmless and pacific than in any other country. 

I shall conclude this chapter with two reflections. The first 
is a very obvious one : it is that the existence of a free press 
is not alone sufficient to inspire a people wjth a just sense of 
liberty, and to cultivate in them those qualities which are 
necessary to the establishment and maintenance of free insti- 
tutions. The press was free in Denmark, Sweden and Prussia, 
until very modern times. It is nearly so in China. But in all 
these countries the moral power to set in motion this vast en- 
gine is wanting. The Prussian and Danish youth may be as 
well educated as the American, but the Prussian citizen is not 
half so well educated as the American citizen. 

The second reflection is, that the press must not be regarded 
merely as the repiesentative of political opinions. The dis- 
semination of information in the daily journals, in magazines, 
pamphlets and books, on a variety of subjects interesting to 
the popular mind, withdraws the attention of the people from 
a too intense devotion to party politics, and educates them to 
be both men and citizens. 



CHAP. V.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



415 



CHAPTER V. 

ARISTOCRATIC AL INSTITUTIONS. 

There is a line observation of Adam Smith, in the " Theory 
of Moral Sentiments," relative to the formation of ranks. He ' 
remarks, that where there is no envy in the case, we sympa- 
thize more readily with the good than with the bad fortune of 
individuals; and as much envy cannot be supposed to exist 
among the great mass of common people, they feel a real de- 
light in beholding the prosperity and luxury of the rich; and 
in this way the foundation of an aristocracy is laid. The ob- 
servation is neither recondite nor far-fetched ; on the contrary, 
it is both solid and ingenious, and is founded in the deepest 
nsight into human nature. The same idea seems to have 
struck Bonaparte when he was revolving the plan of estab- 
lishing the "legion of honor." He was struck with the curi- 
osity which the populace exhibited in surveying the rich 
uniforms and decorations of the dignitaries who surrounded 
him. There was always a crowd in the neighborhood of his 
residence to witness the show. " See," said he to those who 
objected to the uupopularity of the institution, "see these 
futile vanities which geniuses disdain. The populace is not 
of their opinion. It loves those many-colored cordons. The 
democrat philosophers may call it vanity, idolatry. But that 
idolatry and vanity are weaknesses common to the whole 
human race; and from both great virtues may be made to 
spring." In order to the existence of an aristocracy, it is not 
merely necessary that there should be great inequality in the 
distribution of wealth ; it is necessary, also, that this condi- 
tion of society should fall in with the prevailing tastes and 
prejudices of the people. A privileged class may be created 
by dint of force; but to maintain its existence for any consid- 
erable time, it must some how or other interweave itself with 
the affections and sentiments of the people. 



416 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



But Adam Smith does not direct the attention of his readers 
to another fact of still greater importance, inasmuch as it pre- 
vents the rise of a privileged class, or prepares the way for its 
extirpation after it has been established. We may very easily 
suppose a state of society in which the common people, being 
lifted to a considerable share of independence, will feel more 
self-respect, and have less admiration for outward show and 
splendor ; at any rate, in which the envy of which Adam Smith 
speaks will stifle that sentiment of admiration. About the 
time he wrote, commenced that extraordinary prosperity of 
the English nation which has continued with little interrup- 
tion to the present day, and which has given a prodigious im- 
pulse to all sorts of industry : to commerce, manufactures and 
agriculture. But the effect has been to raise up from among 
the ranks of the people, once so poor and humiliated, a formi- 
dable class whose wealth eclipses that of the nobility. And 
a further consequence is, that the sympathy which was before 
felt in the fortunes and reputation of a privileged body is now 
engrossed by an exceedingly numerous class of the population. 
The envy of which Adam Smith speaks now begins to show 
itself. The people feel that they are able to rival the aristoc- 
racy in wealth and intelligence, and they envy the exclusive 
privileges which are accorded to that Aristocracy. I think I 
can discern many symptoms of a loosening of the hold which 
the institution once had upon the popular mind. As the ab- 
sence of envy among a thoughtless and ignorant people con- 
tributed to the formation of ranks, an opposite cause may tend 
gradually to undermine their influence. The institution has 
already ceased to be hereditary in France, and some other 
countries. The curious trait of character which Bonaparte 
observed in the French populace, has been wonderfully modi- 
fied by some other circumstances. 

In the United States there is no foundation upon whi?h to 
build an aristocracy. Landed property is very equally dis- 
tributed ; and the laws prohibiting primogeniture and entails, 
prevent its accumulation beyond a very limited period. It is 
the greatest nation of proprietors which has ever existed. One 
may observe signs of the same love of splendor and outward 
show which are visible among the people ; for, the French ruler 
remarked, it is common to the whole race of mankind. Never 



CHAP. V.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



417 



theless, the feeling is different from what it is in other countries. 
Instead of making people contented with their own condition, 
aud satisfied with beholding the splendor and outward show 
which others make, it renders every one uneasy and restless, 
and goads them to unceasing exertions to procure to them- 
selves some of the advantages of fortune. 

As it is the effect of free institutions to take power from the 
superior ranks, and to add power to the popular body, in the 
progress of time these two classes change places. The aristoc- 
racy is converted into the democracy, and the democracy into* 
the aristocracy ; for there where the political power resides, 
will reside also the aristocracy. What was once the governing 
power, becomes the subject body. Hence, in popular govern- 
ment, one may observe a general disposition, not only to pay 
court to the people, but to imitate their manners, and to fall 
down to the level of their understandings. 

Declamatory talent takes the place of genuine eloquence, 
superficial views of profound thinking. It may also be said 
that the people set the fashion in every respect. Aud if it 
were not for a tendency in an opposite direction, if the people 
were not making constant efforts to elevate themselves, the 
condition of society would be melancholy in the extreme. For 
the true democratic principle does not consist in lettiug down 
the highest in the laud to the level of the lowest, but iu lifting 
the greatest possible number to the highest standard of inde- 
pendence and intelligence. Although those who endeavor to 
ingratiate themselves with the people are intent upon advanc- 
ing their own interests, they some how or other succeed in 
giving an impulse to popular improvement. Foreigners sup- 
pose that the democratic institutions of America are calculated 
to degrade the character of all public men, and to lower the 
general tone of intellectual and moral excellence. But it is 
important to look to ultimate and permanent results, and not 
merely to immediate consequences. Candidates for office are 
doubtless, in numerous instances, led to the employment of 
arts, and the cultivation of qualities, which are unfavorable to 
the growth of a sturdy and manly virtue. But independently 
of the fact that tbes>e qualities would, under any other form of 
government, be found to exist, only under different forms, aud 
with more mischievous tendencies, the great desideratum is. 



418 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book in. 



obtained — that of bringing about an association among the 
different orders of men of which the state is composed. The 
superior man may for the time beiug be lowered, but the infe- 
rior man will be sure to be elevated. The opportunities which 
most of the candidates have enjoyed in some degree, their pur- 
suits in after life, their addiction to politics, even if it be only 
the superficial part of the science, enable them to impart some 
things to the people which the people are very inquisitive to 
learn, and the knowledge of which would be otherwise with- 
held from them in consequence of their daily occupations. The 
general intercourse which is thus established gives the most 
ordinary mind some tolerable insight into public affairs, ini- 
tiates the uninstructed into the conduct of public men, and the 
import of the public measures, so that the mind the most cap- 
tious and the least disposed to estimate free government at its 
true value must see, upon reflection, that the advantages 
springing from this order of things greatly preponderate over 
^he mischief which is incident to it. It is impossible to pro- 
duce as general an intercourse among all classes as is desirable, 
without incurring the mischief. But the intercourse gives to 
the popular understanding a very important discipline. Curi- 
osity is the first step in the acquisition of knowledge; rouse 
that among a whole people, and you possess yourself of the 
master-key to their faculties. The common people even form 
exaggerated notions of the advantages of information, after 
listening to repeated conversations and discourses of public 
men. A strong and general taste for education is diffused 
among them ; and in progress of time a new people grows up, 
which is able to detect the hollowness of those artifices which 
were before employed to gain its favor. The evil is corrected 
by that same instrumentality which it was supposed would 
augment and perpetuate it. Doubtless politicians are beDt 
•upon promoting their own interests in their efforts to win the 
good will of the people. But some how or other, public and 
private interests are inseparably connected. Providence has 
wisely ordered that there shall be no way by which men can 
substantially and permanently advance their own interests, 
without advancing that ot others. The lawyer, the physician, 
the merchant, are all chiefly intent upon lilting themselves in 
-the scale of society ; but they cannot do so without scattering 



CHAP. V.] 



OF FREE INSTITUTIONS. 



419 



benefits around them, and lifting the condition of others as 
well as of themselves. 

Wealth and refinement, when they are not confined to a 
separate order, are not necessarily unfavorable to a high 
standard of intelligence and morals ; on the contrary, they 
may be bighly instrumental in the promotion of both. If this 
were not the case, the condition of a free people would be the 
most hopeless imaginable ; for they are destined to make the 
most rapid advances in the acquisition of riches. 

Let us walk through the apartments of the rich man, and 
survey the interior economy of his house. We can only 
obtain a lively and correct picture of society, by examining 
the minute and delicate springs which govern it. The first 
thing which strikes us is the number of persons who compose 
the househeld. Besides the family proper, the easy circum- 
stances in which he is placed enable him to employ several 
persons to attend to the various offices of the house. There 
is at once the introduction of a principle of order and regu- 
larity. The larger the family, and the more numerous the 
occupations, the greater the necessity for rules by which to 
govern it. The very subordination in which the members of 
the household are placed, is favorable to a system of dis- 
cipline in every part. The head of the family is constrained 
to exercise a certain degree of authority, and this authority is 
chiefly displayed in the maintenance of order and arrange- 
ment in each one's occupations. The education of his chil- 
dren, is one of the first things which engages the attention of 
a man placed in independent circumstances. If he has not 
been educated himself, his heart is the more set upon it on 
that very account. This contributes still further to introduce 
the elements of good morals into the bosom of the family. If 
there is refinement and luxury, and even ostentation, there 
are also some powerfully counteracting principles in opera- 
tion. The authority of the head of the family cannot be main- 
tained, the obedience of his children cannot be easily won., if 
he breaks through the rules of morality, and sets an example 
which is at war with all the precepts which he undertakes to 
inculcate. There cannot be one cede of ethics for parents id 
another for children. The consequence is, that childre i 11 
impose a restraint upon parents, as well as parents upon chil- 



420 



NATURE AND TENDENCY 



[book III. 



dren. x\nd however ineffectual the former may sometimes be, 
yet in the great majority of instances, it will exercise a marked 
influence upon the interior economy of the household. Iudi 
viduals make great efforts to acquire property, in order that 
they may live in what they term elegance ; and they have no 
sooner succeeded in their desires, than they find themselves 
surrounded by beings whose appetite for novelty and splendor 
is even stronger than their own. The only way to maintain a 
due authority in their families, without which everything 
would run to confusion, and there would be neither elegance 
nor enjoyment for any one, is to introduce a system of rules 
for the government of the family. And these rules, to have 
any effect, must somehow or other connect themselves with 
the principles of morality. And when that is the case, the 
wealth which was amassed in order to enable its possessor to 
live independently and free from control, is the means of creat- 
ing an active control in the bosom of private families. Man- 
ners, that is, good breeding and civility, are one of the 
attendants upon a well-ordered, domestic society, and this 
creates a new bond of connection, not only between the mem- 
bers of the family, but between them and the great society 
out of doors. And it is very easy to see, even from this rapid 
sketch, how the acquisition of wealth may contribute to ele- 
vate the general standard of morals and intelligence in the 
com m unity. 

But the man placed in independont circumstances, has a 
grea